12 DEAD IN FRANCE – PARIS MASSACRE: Islamic gunmen execute French police officer as he pleads for his life after terror attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo at centre of Mohammed cartoon storm
Twelve people were killed today when gunmen carried out a ‘massacre’ at the offices of a notoriously anti-Islamic magazine in Paris – including a police officer who was executed as he begged for mercy on the pavement.
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Two masked attackers brandishing Kalashnikovs burst into the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, opening fire on staff after seeking out journalists by name.
Those executed also included four of the most famous cartoonists in France – men who had regularly satirised Islam and the Prophet Mohammed – and the magazine’s editor in chief, Stephane Charbonnier.
The killers were heard to shout ‘the Prophet has been avenged’ and ‘Allahu akbar!’ as they moved in on the offices and stalked the building.
Horrific footage also emerged showing an injured police officer slumped on the pavement outside the building as the two gunmen approach.
In an apparent desperate plea for his life, the officer is seen slowly raising his hand towards one of the attackers, who responds by callously shooting him in the head at point-blank range.
Despite a shoot-out with armed officers, the ‘calm and highly disciplined’ men who reportedly spoke perfect French escaped in a hijacked car and remain on the run.
As well as the AK47 assault rifles, there were also reports of a rocket-propelled grenade being used in the attack, which took place during the publication’s weekly editorial meeting, meaning all the journalists would have been present.
When shots rang out, it is thought that three policemen on bicycles were the first to respond.
[quote_box_center]’There was a loud gunfire and at least one explosion,’ said an eye witness. ‘When police arrived there was a mass shoot-out. The men got away by car, stealing a car.'[/quote_box_center]
A police official, Luc Poignant, said he was aware of one journalist dead and several injured, including three police officers.
‘It’s carnage,’ Poignant told BFM TV.
Florence Pouvil, a salesperson at Lunas France on Rue Nicolas Appert, opposite Charlie Hebdo offices, told MailOnline:
‘I saw two people with big guns, like Kalashnikovs outside our office and then we heard firing. We were very confused.’
‘There were two guys who came out of the building and shot everywhere. We hid on the floor, we were terrified.
‘They came from the building opposite with big guns. It has a bunch of different companies inside. Some of our co-workers work there so we were frightened for them.
‘They weren’t just firing inside the Charlie Hebdo offices. They were firing in the street too.
‘We feared for our lives so we hid under our desks so they wouldn’t see us. Both men were dressed in black from head to toe and their faces were covered so I didn’t see them.
‘They were wearing military clothes, it wasn’t common clothing, like they were soldiers.’
Charlie Hebdo’s website lists ‘Charb’ as its publication director, and ‘Cabu’ as artistic director.
Mr Charbonnier was included in a 2013 Wanted Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam article published by Inspire, the terrorist propaganda magazine published by Al Qaeda.
Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Gerard Biard escaped the carnage because he was in London.
He told France Inter:
‘I am shocked that people can have attacked a newspaper in France, a secular republic. I don’t understand it.
‘I don’t understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.’
Mr Biard said he did not believe the attack was linked to the magazine’s latest front page, which featured novelist Michel Houellebecq, who has previously sparked controversy with comments about Islam.
And he said the magazine had not received threats of violence:
[quote_box_center]’Not to my knowledge, and I don’t think anyone had received them as individuals, because they would have talked about it. There was no particular tension at the moment.'[/quote_box_center]
A visibly shocked French President François Hollande, speaking live near the scene of the shooting, said:
‘France is today in shock, in front of a terrorist attack.
‘This newspaper was threatened several rimes in the past and we need to show we are a united country.
‘We have to be firm, and we have to be stand strong with the international community in the coming days and weeks.
‘We are at a very difficult moment following several terrorist attacks. We are threated because we are a country of freedom.
‘We will punish the attackers. We will look for the people responsible.’
Prime Minister David Cameron joined the condemnation of the attack, saying:
‘The murders in Paris are sickening.
‘We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.’
The British Foreign Office immediately updated is advice for travellers heading to Pairs, warning: ‘There is a high threat from terrorism.’
It added: ‘If you’re in Paris or the Ile de France area take extra care and follow advice of French authorities.’
Luce Lapin and Laurent Leger, who have both worked at Charlie Hebdo, were using Twitter hours before the attack.
‘The most recent tweet posted by Lapin praised a cartoonist called Cabu.
It read: ‘Cabu, a great man! And honest, he doesn’t eat fois gras.’
While Leger’s made a political point about taxes.
It said: ‘Macron [French ministry of economy] wants more billionaires in France, the same that use tricks for not paying ISF [solidarity tax on wealth].’
A source close to the investigation said two men ‘armed with a Kalashnikov and a rocket-launcher’ stormed the building in central Paris and ‘fire was exchanged with security forces.’
There were reports that the gunmen were looking for people by name.
The latest tweet published by the magazine’s official Twitter account featured a cartoon of Abu Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State.
After the shooting, hundreds of comments were posted on the Charlie Hebdo Twitter page, with one user, David Rault, writing: ‘A sad day for freedom of expression.’
The offices of the same magazine were burnt down in a petrol attack in 2015 after running a magazine cover of the Prophet Mohammed as a cartoon character.
At the time, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, Stephane Charbonnier, said Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press.
[quote_box_center]He said: ‘If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.'[/quote_box_center]
Mr Charbonnier, also known as Charb, said he did not see the attack on the magazine as the work of French Muslims, but of what he called ‘idiot extremists’.
The cover showed Mohammed saying: ‘100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter’.
This week’s Charlie Hebdo also featured the author Houellebecq, whose new novel imagines Muslims tkaing over the French government in 2022.
Inside, there was an editorial, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, and more cartoons – one showing the Prophet with a clown’s red nose.
Depiction of the Prophet is strictly prohibited in Islam, but the magazine denied it was trying to be provocative.
A firebomb attack gutted the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in November 2011 after it put an image of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover.
HOW CHARLIE HEBDO HAS BECOME BYWORD FOR ANTI-ISLAMIC SENTIMENT
Magazine Charlie Hebdo has become a byword for offensive statements in France after taking several highly provocative swipes at Islam.
The magazine once named Prophet Mohammed as its guest editor, published cartoons of the holy figure in the nude, and once renamed itself Sharia Hebdo with the cover slogan ‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter’.
The controversy began in 2006 when the publication reprinted now-infamous cartoons of Prophet Mohammed by Danish artist Kurt Westergaard.
When the images originally appeared they lead to days of protests across the Middle East and in Western cities. The decision to reprint the images landed the then-editor in court under anti-terror laws, though he was later acquitted.
The Hebdo offices were burned to the ground in 2011 when attackers used Molotov cocktails to start a blaze early in the morning of November 2.
There was nobody in the building at the time, and the target was instead thought to be the magazine’s computer system, which was completely destroyed.
Riot police were forced to stand guard outside the building for days following the attack, as the editors took a defiant stance, choosing to reprint the cartoon images multiple times.
In 2012 they again printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as a deliberately provocative gesture while violent protests were taking place across the Middle East.
The following year the magazine’s office again had to be surrounded by riot officers after they published a cartoon booklet depicting the Prohpet naked as a baby and being pushed in a wheelchair.
On the final page of the booklet there was a note from the editor, Stephane Charbonnier, saying the images were ‘halal’ because Muslims had worked on them, and that they were factually accurate as they had been derived from descriptions in the Koran.
The satirical publication, widely seen as France’s answer to Private Eye, prides itself on a mixture of tongue-in-cheek reporting and investigative journalism.
Hebdo’s current office building has no notices on the door to prevent a repeat of the attacks that have occurred in the past.
In an interview with De Volkskrant in January 2013, Mr Charbonnier revealed he had been placed under constant police protection for four months after one of the cartoon issues was published.
He shrugged off criticism that he was only publishing the images to gain notoriety for Hebdo, and insisted that he was instead defending the right to free speech.
Mr Charbonnier pointed out that the magazine had poked fun at feminism, nuclear energy and homeland security, but the Islam issues always attracted the most publicity.