Masked gunmen opened fire at a satirical French publication, Charlie Hebdo killing 12 people and injuring 10. Among those killed were several prominent cartoonists, including Stephane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Maris and Jean Cabut (click here to see their photos) who often illustrated cartoons and wrote articles poking fun at Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim religion. Wolinski was 80-years-old and had been drawing cartoons since the 60s. Reports claim that the gunmen asked for the cartoonists by name and shot them one by one, execution style.
French President François Hollande said the shooting was “undoubtedly a terrorist attack.” France has since raised its terror alert to the highest level. It’s being reported that the gunmen yell, “The Prophet Muhammad has been avenged” while they rushed into the magazine’s offices with rifles. And there were unconfirmed reports that one of the gunmen said to a witness: ‘You say to the media, it was Al Qaeda in Yemen.’
Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper known for its controversial, no-holds-barred cartoons, has previously sparked conflict with Muslims for its satirical take on Islam, including several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. (The publication of the likeness of the prophet is forbidden under Islam). In 2011, the magazine was firebombed after publishing an issue “guest-edited” by the prophet. These gunman returned to the offices to make sure their stance on their religious idol was respected.
According to reports, Mr. Charbonnier was included in a 2013 Wanted Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam article published by Inspire, the terrorist propaganda magazine published by Al Qaeda. Charbonnier was often quoted saying, “I’d prefer to die standing than live on my knees.”
The gunmen were heavily armed with AK47 assault rifles, there were also reports of a rocket-propelled grenade being used in the attack, which took place during the publication’s weekly editorial meeting, meaning all the journalists would have been present. This was planned to the T.
Police officers on bikes were the first to respond as they heard everything. “There was a loud gunfire and at least one explosion,” said an eye witness. ” Police officers were involved in a gunfight with the men, who escaped in a hijacked car, speeding away towards east Paris and remain on the loose, along with a third armed man.
CharlieHebdo.fr is currently shut down and if you visit the site, a simple black and white graphic reads “JesuisCharlie” or “I am Charlie” in remembrance of those who’s lives were stolen yesterday. And a hashtag of the same name #JesuisCharlie has been spreading across social media.
This isn’t the first time Charlie Hebdo has been attacked. In 2011, the publication was the subject of a firebomb attack. There was nobody in the building at the time, and the target was instead thought to be the magazine’s computer system, which was completely destroyed.
As a journalist, I’ve received multiple death threats for what I’ve covered and how I’ve covered it. Mostly, I’ve laughed it off. Now, with the current climate in our world, people’s threats are starting to become promises. It’s a sad day in not only Paris, but in journalism and the notion of free speech.