Police in France have launched a manhunt for two men believed to be the main suspects involved in the Islamic extremist attack on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Police special forces teams, joined by the French army, have launched searches around the villages north of Paris after a petrol station was held up at gunpoint by two men. Suspects Said and Cherif Kouachi are believed to have been the two main gunmen in the attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday that left 12 people dead. Several men linked to the attack have already been arrested, while a police officer was shot dead in Paris on Thursday in an incident thought to be related to Wednesday’s killings. Police teams have now centred on the village of Dammartin-en-Goele, where the suspects are reported to have taken hostages. Negotiations between police and the suspects is believed to have begun. Reuters has reported that ahead of the hostage-taking, one person was killed in a shootout and several others injured.
Healthcare company Circle has said it is pulling out of its contract to run Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire. Hinchingbrooke had been the first privately run hospital in Britain – but Circle cited budget cuts, surging demand for A&E services and a failure to deliver ‘joined up’ health and social care reform as reasons for entering talks to pull out of the contract. Circle Holdings stated that funding for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust had been cut by 10% for the current financial year, requiring the company to spend almost £5 million to support the trust, making the running of the trust unsustainable. The statement comes ahead of a report on the trust to be released by the Care Quality Commission which is expected to be critical of the hospital. A preliminary report released in September report issues of patient neglect, inadequate hygiene and staffing problems. Circle has said it will contest the findings of the report. The issue of a private company pulling out of running an NHS hospital will serve as a point of heated political debate, with the NHS a core issue in the run-up to the general election this May.
China’s inflation rate continued to hover near a five-year low in December, up to 1.5 percent from 1.4 percent the month before. Analysts have said that the figures show a continuing weakness in China’s economy – however, the figures do give authorities more room to ease economic policies such as interest rates. China’s consumer price index rose by 0.3 percent in December on the month previous, while producer price index fell by a larger than expected 3.3 percent on the year previous. China’s National Statistics Bureau has attributed the fall to falling oil prices. In recent months, China’s recent economic growth has slowed to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crisis, while a troubled real estate market and high levels of local government debt present a challenging year ahead for the economy.
Headlines are overwhelmingly dominated today by the ongoing manhunt for two suspects believed to be involved in the attack on the offices of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The Guardian writes of the “Manhunt for the Paris killers” in its headline, with photographs of the Kouachi brothers on the front page. The brothers are the “main suspects”, the paper writes, reporting that the search for the brothers has shifted from the city to the countryside. The Times reports that the suspects have eluded the manhunt so far in its headline, and states that the brothers may be hiding in a forest. Thursday’s day of national mourning was interrupted by the shooting dead of another police officer, the paper adds. The Independent leads with the headline “Hunted down” – heavily armed police special forces have flooded “the normally tranquil villages north of Paris” near where the suspects reportedly held up a petrol station. In related news, The Daily Telegraph reports on comments from Britain’s MI5 Chief that terror group Al-Qaeda is “‘plotting UK attack'”. The paper reports MI5 Chief Andrew Parker’s warning that “atrocity by jihadists in Britain is almost inevitable”. The Financial Times leads with news of MI5’s revealing of a “Syria-linked terror plot”. The paper reports that there have been “More than 20 threats in west during past 14 months”.
British Media on China
On the jailing of Jaycee Chan: the son of Jackie Chan, Jaycee Chan, was jailed for six months on Friday for drug offences, prompting coverage from the BBC and The Guardian. The BBC writes that Jaycee’s confession “underlines a key message from the Chinese government: no-one is immune from China’s crackdown on illegal drugs”. The Guardian carries a news agency piece on the story, reporting that Chan “is likely to be set free in over a month as the authorities would take into account the time he had spent in detention since last August”. Celebrities have been a “major linchpin” in the government’s drugs crackdown, the piece adds.