Around noon Wednesday, publication day of the latest weekly issue,
two three armed and masked men dressed all in black walked into the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire with Kalashnikovs. Twelve people are confirmed dead, two police officers and ten Charlie Hebdo staffers, with 4 others reportedly in critical condition, and 40 others rescued.
Charlie Hebdo (whose website is offline, showing a 504 error typical of traffic overload) has been a victim of terror attacks before, both times in retaliation for depictions of Mohammad. It is relentlessly satirical, anti-religious, and Leftist. The first attack against the magazine, in 2006, occurred when Charlie Hebdo published the infamous Danish cartoon which had caused an international furor. The organization was later unsuccessfully sued for incitement to hatred; the charges were thrown out. The second incident, a firebombing, occurred in 2011 on the publication day of a special “Sharia Hebdo” edition which featured “Guest Editor Mohammad” and threatened readers with “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter.” No one died in either of those incidents.
From Julian Borger in the Guardian’s liveblog of events:
The petrol bomb attack completely destroyed the Paris offices, the magazine’s website was hacked and the staff were subjected to death threats. But six days later, it published a new front page depicting a male Charlie Hebdo cartoonist passionately kissing a bearded Muslim man in front of the charred aftermath of the bombing. The headline this time was: L’Amour plus fort que la haine (Love is stronger than hate).
Less than a year after that, it published more cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, including images of him naked and a cover showing him being pushed along in a wheelchair by an Orthodox Jew. The French government had appealed to the magazine not to go ahead with publication, and shut down embassies and schools in twenty countries when it went ahead anyway, out of fear of reprisals.
According to the Guardian’s liveblog, police and magazine staff were on the alert today, as the magazine had recently received credible threats of violence. The French President, Francoise Hollande, has already been to the scene and the cabinet will meet shortly to discuss the violence.
The shooters reportedly walked through the entrance into the main hallway and simply started shooting, later stealing a getaway vehicle. It has since been abandoned, and another car hijacked. CBS News reports that one of the gunmen was heard asking for people by name. He then killed the editor and the cartoonist. Two eyewitnesses stated that the first police officers to arrive (via bicycle) fled upon realizing they were facing two heavily armed shooters. They were reportedly not carrying guns themselves.
Here’s video of the shooters in the street, taken by staffers who’d fled to the rooftop.
You can see the gunmen here, pointing their guns at an oncoming police car. The Scotsman reports that three police officers are among the dead. Video is circulating on Twitter of the murder of one of the police officers, his hands in the air.
And this is the most recent tweet from the Charlie Hebdo Twitter account, which was tweeted about an hour before the attack. It depicts Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, giving his “best wishes” for 2015, in a rough satirical parallel to the Queen’s Christmas Address.
To give you an idea of France’s response, the Charlie Hebdo tweet has been retweeted over 6200 times and Favorited 1600 times at the time of posting.
Hollande called the attack “an exceptional act of barbarism committed against a newspaper…We need to show we are a united country. We will fight these threats and we will punish the attackers.”
The White House has issued a statement:
The United States said it condemned Wednesday’s deadly shooting attack on a French newspaper in the “strongest possible terms”.
“Everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were killed or injured in this attack,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, speaking on MSNBC.
“Senior officials at the White House have been in close touch with their counterparts in France this morning,” he added.
“The United States stand ready to work closely with the French” to help them probe the attack.
Featured Image via Petitmouflard on Twitter