The terrorist attack on the Paris based magazine Charlie Hebdo has been described by French President François Hollande an “exceptional act of barbarism”.
A huge manhunt is now underway for three gunmen who entered the offices of the satirical magazine and shot dead 10 journalists as well as two police officers outside. It is believed the attackers called out “Allahu akbar (God is great)” as well as the names of the journalists as they executed them. Five others are reported to be seriously wounded. The attackers fled the scene in a hijacked car which has since been recovered, but they remain at large.
The terror alert in Paris has been raised to its highest possible level. Additional police and security personnel have been deployed to guard other media offices as well as rail stations, shopping areas and tourist attractions. People have been gathering in Place de la Republique to mourn the victims and protest against extremism.
The shocking moment when one policeman was brutally shot at point blank range on the street outside the Charlie Hebdo offices was caught on video (below) and has been broadcast around the world by news outlets. [WARNING: While the precise moment of shooting has been removed, you may find the video disturbing and caution is still advised]
Charlie Hebdo prides itself on stridently advocating free speech and has a history of courting controversy. The irreverent weekly magazine came to global attention in 2006 when it notoriously published cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad, to the ire of much of the world’s Muslim followers. In an edition in 2011, retitled ‘Charia Hebdo’, it named Muhammad as its guest editor. The publication’s offices were firebombed in that same year. In 2012 it published more cartoons depicting Muhammad.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief Gérard Biard, who was in London at the time of the attack, has expressed his shock and said: “A newspaper is not a weapon of war”.
French President Hollande visited the Charlie Hebdo site following the incident. Labelling it a “terrorist attack”, Mr Hollande described it as “an exceptional act of barbarism” and called for national unity.
The White House condemned the attack in the “strongest possible terms” while US Secretary of State, John Kerry described it as a “Vicious act of violence” adding that it was an attack on freedom and freedom is what extremists fear the most. He said he agreed with the notion that the victims were “martyrs for liberty”.
UN Secretary General said the attack was a “horrendous, unjustifiable and cold blooded crime”.
Queen Elizabeth II has also issued a statement, expressing her condolences for the families of the victims.
TOP IMAGE: Paris is on highest alert status after heavily armed gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and shot dead at least 12 people. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)