At least 12 people were killed and ten injured on Wednesday, January 7, at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, when two gunmen attacked the building and opened fire, sparking angry criticism worldwide.
People had been “murdered in a cowardly manner”, President Francois Hollande told reporters at the scene.
“We are threatened because we are a country of liberty,” he added, appealing for national unity.
Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.
According to French police, the attack occurred when two masked gunmen armed with AK47s and pump action shotguns attacked the building.
According to France’s AFP news agency, the men were armed with at least one rocket launcher.
Officials said two police officers were among those killed, and that the other 10 were journalists.
Hollande has travelled to the scene in Paris’s 11th arrondissement after what he called the “terrorist attack”.
Speaking to reporters, he stated that four of those injured were “between life and death”.
An eyewitness, Benoit Bringer, told French TV channel Itele: “Two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs.
“A few minutes later we heard lots of shots.”
The men were then seen fleeing the building.
“It’s carnage,” French police official Luc Poignant told another French channel, BFMTV.
The editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, has reportedly been killed in the attack, judicial sources tell Agence France Presse.
Immediately after the attack, angry reactions appeared from around the world.
“We condemn the attack on #CharlieHebdo Whomever the attackers are, and whatever the cause may be, nothing justifies the taking of life,” the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has added his voice to international condemnation of the attack, tweeting that “violence will always lose against freedom”.
Chancellor Merkel said the shootings in France are not only an attack on French citizens, but on freedoms of the press and speech.
“I’m shocked to receive the news of the malicious attack on a newspaper office in Paris. In these hours of pain I would like to express to you and your countrymen the sympathy of the German nation,” she said.
Charlie Hebdo has a long reputation for being provocative.
In September 2012, the French weekly published cartoons displaying a man said to be the prophet as naked.
The cartoons came amid turmoil in the Muslim world over an American-made movie defaming the Prophet.
In 2011, the office of the magazine was firebombed after it published an edition “guest-edited by Muhammad”, which the satirical weekly called Shari`ah Hebdo. ONISLAM