1 gunman surrenders, huge hunt for 2 more
PARIS – Shouting "God is great" in Arabic, masked gunmen stormed the offices of a French satirical magazine Wednesday, killing 12 people including the editor, his bodyguard and a prominent cartoonist.
Police said three hooded, armed attackers infiltrated the building near the Bastille around 11:40 a.m. local time and opened fire on a staff meeting at the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication has published controversial depictions of the Islamic prophet Mohammed that angered Muslims around the world.
The gunmen went to the editorial offices and attacked journalists and then fled, authorities said. The men were reported to have spoken earlier in fluent, unaccented French as they entered the building.
Officials said that the suspects were brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, 32 and 34, and Hamyd Mourad, 18. Mourad walked into a police station northeast of Paris and gave himself up, the New York Times reported late Wednesday. A wanted poster pictured the brothers, who were still at large, and warned that they were "likely armed and dangerous."
French President Francois Hollande addressed the nation Wednesday night, vowing to see the perpetrators captured and punished. "Freedom will always be stronger than barbarism," Hollande said.
"We must be aware that our best weapon is our unity, the unity of all of our citizens. Nothing can divide us. Nothing must separate us from one another," the president stated.
Video shown by public broadcaster France Televisions showed two gunmen in black outside the magazine offices after the shootings, firing at random down a cobblestone street flanked by apartment and office buildings.
"Hey! We avenged the prophet Mohammed! We killed Charlie Hebdo," one of the men could be heard shouting in French in the video.
The attackers reportedly fled in a waiting car, then later hijacked another vehicle.
Five people injured
The dead included 10 staff members of the magazine as well as two police officers. Five more people were seriously injured, authorities said. The victims included the magazine's editor, Stéphane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name Charb — and the police bodyguard assigned to protect him after death threats were issued by Islamists over provocative cartoons published in November 2011.
Also among the dead were Bernard Maris, an economist and regular contributor to the magazine, and cartoonists Georges Wolinski, who also worked for Paris Match magazine, and Berbard Verlhac, known to readers as Tignous.
Cartoonist Corinne Rey, known as Coco, told the newspaper l'Humanite that she had been forced to let the gunmen into the newspaper offices with her key code when she arrived to the building with her young daughter.
They hid under a desk during the shooting rampage that lasted about five minutes, said the newspaper, which like many French publications expressed solidarity with the magazine with the black-bordered statement on its website "JeSuisCharlie" — "I am Charlie."
The terror alert in Paris was raised to its highest level after the attacks, the deadliest in France since World War II. Schools closed throughout the city, and authorities instituted extraordinary security measures at transportation hubs, retail centers, media offices and houses of worship.
Hollande described the incident as "a terrorist attack without doubt."
Rocco Contento, a representative of the police union, said there was "butchery" inside the offices. "They went in there to kill," he said. "It was carnage."
Gerard Biard, a senior editor of Charlie Hebdo who was in London at the time of the attack, expressed disbelief. "I don't understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war," he said.
Revenge for disrespect
Anonymous supporters of Al-Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) sent messages via Twitter hailing the attack as revenge for disrespect of Mohammed.
However, tens of thousands of other people took to social media to express solidarity with the magazine and sympathy for the victims.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered in historic Place de la République to show their anger, sympathy and solidarity. Some lit candles, others raised copies of the magazine or simply held pens aloft to show their support.
President Obama condemned the attack and promised French officials any help needed to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"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," he said in a statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack as "a horrendous, unjustifiable and coldblooded crime" and an "assault on a cornerstone of democracy."
"This horrific attack was meant to divide. We must not fall into that trap. This is a moment of solidarity around the world," Ban said.
The reformist Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA issued a statement saying it "categorically condemns the barbaric attack … and mourns with the families of the victims."
"Nothing justifies this barbaric and inhumane attack," said Nasim Rehmatullah, national vice president of the community.