A salesman has told a French radio station that he shook the hand of one of the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects.
Suspects Said and Cherif Kouachi are holed up in an industrial estate with a hostage in a town around 25 miles from Paris following a car chase during which heavy gunfire was reported.
On Friday radio station France-Info aired an exclusive interview with a local salesman known only as Didier, who had been at the offices of a printing company where the siege is said to be taking place.
Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi are suspected of carrying out the massacre at the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo
Didier told the station he had visited the company to meet a client and noticed a man clad in black whom he took to be an armed police officer.
He said: "When I arrived, my client came out with an armed man, who introduced himself as the police.
"My client asked me to go, so I turned away, and then the person who I thought was a police officer said to me 'Go, we don't kill civilians.'
A member of French special forces stands on the roof of a building understood to have been taken over by the suspects
“And that's what completely threw me. I decided to call the police. I guess that was one of the terrorists. I met a terrorist and I shook his hand."
Didier said the man was dressed in a bulletproof vest and had a gun.
"I had no idea if he [my client] was a hostage, or was being robbed. I knew there was something wrong. I didn't hear gunshots," he continued.
"I guess I'll go and see my colleagues now, and play the lottery because I've been very lucky this morning."
Heavily armed police in helicopters are circling the building
Scores of heavily armed police and special forces personnel have surrounded the premises in the town of Dammartin-en-Goele, where a full-scale lockdown has been implemented.
Officers have made telephone contact with the suspects, an official said.
MP Yves Albarello told French broadcaster i>tele that they "have declared they want to die as martyrs.”
It also emerged on Friday morning that authorities now believe that there is a link between the brothers and the suspected perpetrator of a shooting yesterday in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge in which a police officer was killed.
At least three helicopters hovered above the town. Nearby Charles de Gaulle airport closed two runways to arrivals to avoid interfering in the standoff, an airport spokesman said.
The town appealed to residents to stay inside their houses.
The men are suspected in the attack against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead, France’s deadliest terror attack in decades.
One of the men had been convicted of terrorism charges in 2008, and a U.S. official said both brothers were on the American no-fly list.