A dozen people were shot to death at the Paris office of the satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo (“Charlie Weekly”) on January 7, in what appears to be retaliation for a cartoon that portrayed a Muslim man kissing one of its male editors.
The three gunmen stormed into the company’s daily editorial meeting with assault rifles and opened fire, killing twelve and wounding several more. According to the BBC, among those killed were “four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor” Stéphane Charbonnier, and two police officers.
Witnesses to the shooting reported that they heard the gunmen shouting in Arabic, “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great.”
The leftist magazine is known for being anti-religious, for which it has come under literal fire before. In November 2011, the office was destroyed in a firebomb attack and its website hacked after it published an issue containing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and named him as the next issue’s guest “editor-in-chief.”
The Telegraph reported that in 2013, Charbonnier’s name “was included in a Wanted Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam article published by Inspire, the terrorist propaganda magazine published by al-Qaida.”
A lawyer for Charlie Hebdo, Richard Malka, told the Telegraph that the magazine had been “under police protection since the Mohammed cartoon affair right up until today,” and that Charbonnier “was under special high-profile figure protection. The threats were constant. It is frightening.”
If the current reports of twelve fatalities are correct, it makes the shooting the most deadly terrorist attack in France since 1961, when the bombing of a Strasbourg–Paris train killed twenty-eight people.
President Francois Hollande told press, “We are threatened because we are a country of liberty.”
After the shooting, the masked gunmen exchanged fire with law enforcement at the scene before making their escape in a getaway car, driven by a fourth man. The vehicle was later abandoned in northern Paris, where the men hijacked another car.
According to Reuters, police union official Rocco Contento reported, “There is a possibility of other attacks and other sites are being secured.”
On the evening news, President Hollande said “Today the French Republic as a whole was the target,” and declared a national day of mourning for the country on January 8.