Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Barbarism in Paris leaves 12 dead at Charlie Hebdo office

France has been rocked by a terror attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which has left at least 12 dead and dozens of others injured, many seriously.

Coordinated attack

The story broke shortly after 11:00 GMT, less than an hour after the "carefully coordinated attack" began.

Reports indicated that three masked men stormed the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Rue Nicolas Appert in Paris at about 11:00 CET [GMT +1]. Witnesses said the gunmen entered the building and began shooting with automatic weapons.

The attackers were said to have shouted Allahu Akbah [God is Great] and "Nous avons venger le proph├Ęte Mohammed" [We have avenged the prophet Mohammed] whilst slaughtering staff who were attending an editorial meeting.

The next edition was believed to have been a special edition focused on Sharia law and staff were said to have been discussing the details when the gunmen burst in, calling staff by name before shooting them.

Police killed

As the attackers left the building two police officers were shot. One video posted to YouTube showed one gunman shooting an injured policeman lying on the ground at point blank range with an AK47 leaving the officer dead.

The video then showed two of the gunmen calmly making their way to their vehicle, a black Citroen DS, and driving off. One of the attackers could be seen picking up a training show which fell from the car before getting in and it is believed the perpetrators later changed into casual clothing before dumping the vehicle.

Soon after the attack eyewitness accounts emerged. One Charlie Hebdu employee said she had let two gunmen in as she was exiting the building to pick up her daughter from nursery school. They claimed they were from Al Qaeda before they shot at her colleagues, she said.

Targeted killings

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne "Coco" Rey was quoted by French newspaper L'Humanite as saying: "I had gone to collect my daughter from day care and as I arrived in front of the door of the paper's building two hooded and armed men threatened us. They wanted to go inside, to go upstairs. I entered the code. They fired on Wolinski, Cabu ... it lasted five minutes ... I sheltered under a desk... They spoke perfect French... claimed to be from Al Qaeda." [Daily Mail]

Soon after the attack French President Francois Hollande attended the scene and spoke to journalists. Hollande said the security level in Paris had been raised after the attack and described it "as an act of extreme barbarism".

Confirmed dead

Several well known French cartoonists were confirmed killed in the gun attack. Amongst them were Jean Cabut (13 January 1938 – 7 January 2015), better known as Cabu, a French comic strip artist and caricaturist. St├ęphane Charbonnier (21 August 1967 – 7 January 2015), known as Charb, a French caricaturist and journalist, and was also declared dead as was Georges Wolinski (28 June 1934 – 7 January 2015) another cartoonist and comic book creator. Fifty-six-year-old French caricaturist Bernard Verlhac, who used the pseudonym Tignous, was also killed along with another colleague economist, writer and journalist Bernard Maris, who was aged 68.

Of the twelve confirmed dead two policemen were also killed including one from the Service de la protection [SDLP], a unit within the French National Police which is responsible for the protection of French and foreign dignitaries and the provision of technical security support.

Controversial publication

According to reports there had been a continued police presence outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo following continued threats against staff at the magazine and a firebomb attack in 2011.

The magazine had courted much controversy over the years, particularly with religious groups which it often lampooned and satirized. Portrayals of the prophet Mohammed had drawn particular ire and criticism from Islamic groups and there had been a number of threats made by terror organisations.

Investigation

The attackers' car was later found in northern suburbs of Paris near the Port de Pantin Metro station, a less than 20 minute journey by car from the Charlie Hebdo offices in the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. More than 3,000 police were drafted in to hunt down the men but the task may prove to be impossible.

This was arguably the worst terror attack France has ever known, and the sheer barbarism of the attack will have shocked the country to its core. Whilst there were signs that Islamic extremism was growing especially given recent attacks on police and shoppers over Christmas, the nature of the Paris attack may have grave repercussions.

The reality of the events has been even more shocking given the videos and pictures posted on social media. One video posted on YouTube showed one injured officer shot dead as he lay injured on the ground.

Condemnation

Whilst Muslim leaders condemned the attacks, there may well be a backlash against the Muslim population. One French imam labelled those that died as "martyrs for liberty" while French President called the attack on both France, liberty and freedom of speech.

World leaders also stood out in condemnation. The British Prime Minister David Cameron added his voice, saying, "The murders in Paris are sickening."

"We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press."

In the US President Barack Obama condemned the "horrific shooting". In a written statement he said, "France is America's oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world."

"Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended." the President added.

Later US Secretary of State John Kerry gave an address in both English and French offering further solidarity and condolences.

"Free expression and a free press are core values. They are universal principles that can be attacked, but never eradicated," Kerry said. "Today's murders are part of a large confrontation...between civilisation itself, and those opposed to the civilised world."

Charlie is not dead

However, life will not be quite the same in France which has experienced a big wake up call. As far as the future for Charlie Hebdo is concerned, it may well continue. The terrorists ran from the scene triumphantly shouting they had killed Charlie Hebdo. But in defiance the phrase "Je Suis Charlie" has trended across social networks. And late Wednesday the Charlie Hebdo website was itself back online after reportedly being down following the attack in Paris. It showed a single image "Je Suis Charlie".



Wikipedia / BBC / Sky News / CNN / France24 / Daily Mail / WSJ

French media: Le Monde / Le Figaro / Liberation / Le Parisien / Paris Match

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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