Gunmen on Wednesday killed 12 people when they opened fire inside the Paris offices of a French satirical magazine.
French authorities said three masked men with automatic weapons stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly magazine that frequently publishes caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed and other religious figures, near the Bastille monument shortly before noon local time. The Associated Press reported the gunmen opened fire inside the publication’s newsroom during an editorial meeting.
Le Monde, a French newspaper, reported Stéphane Charbonnier, editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo who drew many of the magazine’s caricatures under the penname Charb, is among those who were killed during the siege. The gunmen also shot to death three of the magazine’s cartoonists.
Charlie Hebdo in 2006 republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed that first appeared in a Danish magazine the year before.
The left-leaning French weekly’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published another caricature of the Prophet Muhammed. Charlie Hebdo during the same year published a Charbonnier cartoon that highlighted Sharia law and homosexuality.
“Soft Sharia allows homosexuality,” read the cartoon. “Gays just have to wear the veil.”
Charlie Hebdo in 2011 published a cartoon on its cover that featured Charbonnier kissing a man dressed in traditional Muslim clothing under the headline “Love is stronger than hate.” A caricature the weekly satirical magazine published in 1999 mocked anti-gay religious leaders who opposed a bill that sought to extend civil unions to same-sex couples in France.
Charbonnier had been under police protection since the 2011 firebombing. The AP reported an al-Qaida magazine specifically threatened him.
The gunmen killed two police officers during the siege of Charlie Hebdo’s offices.
Gay French journalist describes shooting as ‘a personal offense’
Têtu, a French LGBT magazine, on Wednesday expressed its “condolences and solidarity” with Charlie Hebdo on its Twitter page. It also used the #IAmCharlie hashtag that has gone viral on social media networks.
— TÊTU (@TETUmag) January 7, 2015
Paul Parant, who edits Têtu’s website, told the Washington Blade in an e-mail that a feeling of “utter shock” has descended upon Paris. He said the office from which he works is roughly two miles away from where the shooting took place. “As a journalist, as a citizen, as someone who believes in progress, it is almost a personal offense,” Parant told the Blade. “I hold dearly many of their cartoons.” La Manif Pour Tous, a group that mobilized opposition to France’s same-sex marriage law that took effect in 2013, on its Twitter page also expressed “solidarity with the victims and sincere condolences to their families and colleagues.” It also used the #freedomofpress hashtag.
French President François Hollande has described the shooting as “a terrorist attack” and “an act of exceptional barbarism.”
President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are among the world leaders who have condemned the shooting.
“France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world,” said Obama in a statement. “Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers.”
People who gathered at Paris’ Place de la Republique on Wednesday held pens in the air during a demonstration against the shooting. Le Monde has posted a cartoon that reads “with all our heart we are with Charlie Hebdo.”
The gunmen remain at large.