Details are still sparse and the story is quickly evolving, but at least two heavily armed, masked men entered the offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris Wednesday around 11 a.m. local time and opened fire on members of the newsroom and on policemen, killing at least 12 people, including the editor in chief.
It was the deadliest terror attack in France in decades. A manhunt is underway for those responsible.
The attackers were armed with Kalashnikovs (AK-47 assault rifles) and appeared to know that Charlie Hebdo was having its weekly editorial meeting, when most of the journalists and cartoonists on the staff would be present, according to reports from French newspapers Le Monde and Libération. There were more than 20 people wounded in the attacks and those responsible claimed they belong to al-Qaeda.
Charlie Hebdo, which spared no one from its satire – including Muslims, Jews and Christians as well as both spectrums of the French political landscape – has regularly received threats from Muslim extremists. But journalists there said they had become accustomed to it and had police protection and bodyguards in the lobby of the building.
At least two police officers and some of the newspaper’s most renowned cartoonists and journalists were killed in the attack.
This isn’t the first time Charlie Hebdo’s offices have been targeted by extremists. In 2011, the paper’s previous offices were firebombed after the newspaper published controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammad.
Many in France changed their Facebook profile pictures to support the newspaper, claiming “Je suis Charlie,” which means “I am Charlie.” On Twitter, the hashtag #jesuischarlie was heavily used Wednesday as well.
School field trips in Paris were canceled after the attack and the French government has stepped up its anti-terrorist plan, called Vigipirate. The White House and the European Union condemned the attack, while other newspapers in Europe heightened security at their offices, including the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in 2005.
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