Masked gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper that caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, methodically killing 12 people Wednesday, including the editor, before escaping in a car. It was France's deadliest terrorist attack in half a century.
Shouting "Allahu akbar!" as they fired, the men claimed links to al-Qaida in their military-style, noon-time attack on the weekly paper Charlie Hebdo, located near Paris' Bastille monument. The publication's depictions of Islam and Islamic extremists have drawn condemnation and threats before ? it was firebombed in 2011 ? although it also satirized other religions and political figures.
Police identified three men, including two brothers, as suspects in the attack at the offices of weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, as security officers fanned out around the Paris region in a manhunt.
One police official said the men had links to a Yemeni terrorist network. Witnesses of the attackers' escape through Paris said one claimed allegiance to al-Qaida in Yemen.
Both al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have repeatedly threatened to attack France, which is conducting airstrikes against extremists in Iraq and fighting Islamic militants in Africa.
President Francois Hollande said it was a terrorist act "of exceptional barbarism," adding that other attacks have been thwarted in France in recent weeks. Fears have been running high in France and elsewhere in Europe that jihadis returning from conflicts in Syria and Iraq will stage attacks at home.
PARIS — It was shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday when a small enclave off one of Paris’ large boulevards close to the Place de la Bastilles was shaken with bursts of gunfire and cries of “Allah is the greatest” and “The Prophet is avenged.”
Within minutes, people who rushed to their windows and balconies to see what was going on realized that the long-threatened jihadi operation against Paris was under way.
The target this time was the weekly Charlie Hebdo, one of the liveliest and, perhaps necessarily, most irreverent satirical journals still attracting a major audience in a Western democracy.
By the end of the operation, carried out by a three-man commando group armed with assault rifles, at least 12 people were dead and six others injured.
Among those killed — it’s better to say executed — were 10 members of the weekly’s editorial staff, including the flower of French political cartoonists: Stephane Charbonnier, alias “Charb,” Jean Cabut, alias “Cabu,” Bernard Tignou and the magazine’s top star, Georges Wolinski.
All had been threatened with death on numerous occasions, especially for drawing and publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (including one with a bomb hidden in his turban) and for a special issue, renamed “Sharia Hebdo” for the occasion, with “Muhammad” as guest editor.
The murders today in Paris are not a result of France’s failure to assimilate two generations of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies. They’re not about French military action against the Islamic State in the Middle East, or the American invasion of Iraq before that. They’re not part of some general wave of nihilistic violence in the economically depressed, socially atomized, morally hollow West—the Paris version of Newtown or Oslo. Least of all should they be “understood” as reactions to disrespect for religion on the part of irresponsible cartoonists