Manhunt Underway in Paris After Gunmen Attack Magazine OfficeJanuary 7, 2015 in France
French officials have confirmed that twelve people have been killed and eleven injured after gunmen attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Police have launched a major operation in the Paris area in their hunt for the attackers who escaped shortly after the attack. While police officials have not yet commented on the incident, sources have reported that this attack may stem for the magazine’s recent tweet, which depicted a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The tweet came shortly after the Islamic State threatened to attack France. The satirical weekly magazine has in the past been targeted for its irreverent take on news and current affairs. French President Francois Hollande is currently at the scene and is planning to hold an emergency cabinet meeting.
The office of Charlie Hebdo, located in Paris’ 11th arrondissement, was attacked at about midday on Wednesday. The attack occurred as staff members were attending their weekly editorial meeting. An eyewitness has reported “two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs…a few minutes later we heard lots of shot.” Sources have reported that the two gunmen were wearing black balaclavas, khaki ammunition pouches and were armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-propelled grenade. They were heard shouting “Allahu Akbar.” Sources have indicated that three men, described by a police union spokesman as “commandos,” are currently on the run. They fled in a getaway car that was driven by a fourth suspect shortly after a shootout in the street with police officers.
Officials have confirmed that twelve people have been killed. Two of those killed are police officers while the remaining are journalists. One source has reported that some of the magazine’s cartoonists, including the editor in chief and graphic artist, are among the dead. Five of those wounded are critically injured and officials have warned that the death toll may increase in the coming hours. Speaking to reporters at the scene, French President Francois Hollande indicated that there was no doubt that this was a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity.” The president is due to give a televised address this evening at 8 PM Paris time. Both the White House and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have condemned the attack in Paris.
In the wake of this attack, France has reinforced security at places of worship, shops, media offices and transportation. France’s security level has now been raised to the highest alert. Police have also warned French media to be on alert and to pay attention to security following this attack. Wednesday’s attack ranks as one of the deadliest attacks on Paris since 1995, when a bomb exploded at the Saint-Michel subway station, killing eight.
France was already on high alert for Islamist attacks after several incidents occurred just before Christmas. Cars were driven at shoppers in two cities, Dijon and Nantes, and police officials were attacked by a man wielding a knife in the central town of Joue-les-Tours. While at the time the French government denied that the attacks were linked, officials later announced plans to further raise security in public spaces, including the deployment of around 300 soldiers.
Threats Failed to Silence Magazine
The office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in central Paris have been targeted in the past over the magazine’s controversial content.
In the early morning hours of 2 November 2011, the paper’s office was fire-bombed just hours after an issue featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, in which the religious figure was listed as “editor-in-chief.” The provocative move was not unusual for the magazine, which for the past several decades has been making fun of politics and religion.
In 1969, just one year after its launch, the magazine was banned by the Minister of the Interior after it mocked the media coverage of the death of former French president Charles de Gaulle. The paper, which was then known as Hara-Kiri Hebdo, later changed its name in order to sidestep the ban. While the magazine folded in 1981, it was reborn in 1992, with the first edition selling 100,000 copies. The magazine has on several occasions been warned over its publications. In 2006, then French President Jacques Chirac warned “over provocations’ of other religions should be avoided. The warning came after the paper’s front page depicted a cartoon of a weeping Prophet Mohammed. The magazine has not only targeted Islam, but other religions as well. In 2008, accusations of anti-Semitism were laid against a veteran cartoonist who was later fired. In September 2012, in the aftermath of attacks on US embassies in the Middle East, the magazine published more satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. That publication resulted in security being increased at several French embassies and riot police being stationed outside the paper’s office in order to ensure security.