French magazine publishes photos of bodies of Charlie Hebdo killers

PARIS (AFP) - French magazine Paris Match on Thursday published photos of the bodies of the two brothers behind the bloody January attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying the French "have the right" to see them.

The three pictures showed the bodies of Cherif and Said Kouachi lying on the ground after being shot by police Jan 9 in front of a printing factory where they had holed up in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele outside Paris, near Charles de Gaulle airport.

Two of the photos were printed in black and white because they were "too hard" to look at in colour, Paris Match managing editor Olivier Royant told Europe 1 radio.

The third, published in colour, showed Cherif Kouachi on the ground covered in blood and surrounded by forensic police.

Paris Match described the images as "historic" and defended their publication.

"We have to stop infantilising the public. The French have the right to see this," Royant told AFP. "This is not at all sensationalism."

He added: "This was the final chapter of these two brothers' actions. It was important to publish them."

Royant did not identify who took the photos, but said they were "taken by someone who is not a professional journalist".

They were not part of the official investigation into the brothers, he said.

On Jan 7, the Kouachis attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo with Kalashnikov assault rifles, killing 12 people, among them several of the newspaper's leading caricaturists.

Video footage caught them making comments apparently saying it was to "avenge" the weekly's mocking of the Prophet Muhammad in cartoons.

In a telephone interview with a French television station as police closed in on them after a two-day manhunt, the brothers claimed they were directed by the Islamist group Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

An accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, stormed a Jewish supermarket in Paris as police surrounded the Kouachi brothers, killing several people and taking others hostage.

The Kouachis and Coulibaly were killed by police who rushed both the sites in quick succession.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre launched a "Je suis Charlie" public campaign in favour of freedom of expression backed by several leaders and taken up in countries around the world, though some with large Muslim populations rejected any association with the satirical weekly.