Journalist organisations joined with world leaders in expressing condemnation and shock at an attack by masked gunmen on a newspaper in Paris on Wednesday morning.
The Paris newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked by two masked gunmen, named as brothers Chérif Kouachi, 32 and Said Kouachi, 34, shouting, “God is great” in Arabic yesterday. At least 11 were killed in the attack, including two police officers and at least five journalists, according to media reports. Chérif, had previously been sent to prison for 18 months for his role in an Islamist extremist cell sending volunteers to fight alongside al-Qaida in Iraq from 2003 to 2005.
A third police officer, a street sweeper and four hostages at a Jewish grocery store in Paris were also killed the following day by a third gunman, named as Amedy Coulibaly, and a further unknown accomplice, in two attacks now linked to the Charlie Hebdo attack, The Guardian said.
Reports in the media confirmed the death of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), Cabu (Jean Cabut), Wolinski (Georges Wolinski), Tignous (Bernard Verlhac) and print journalist Bernard Maris as among the twelve people killed in the attack which occurred at the newspaper’s office on Wednesday January 7th.
A statement released by the International Federation of Journalists condemned the attack.
“We are profoundly saddened by this unprecedented attack on media which has sent shock waves across the global community of journalists,” said Jim Boumelha, President of the IFJ, which represents 600,000 journalists worldwide.
The two Kouachi brothers eluded authorities for two days, but were cornered and killed in dramatic scenes at a printing factory in Dammartin-en-Goële, 25 miles north-east of Paris on Friday. The other two gunmen were also killed in a separate siege incident at a Jewish Kosher store in the capital, along with the death of four hostages.
“We first wish to present our sincere condolences to these colleagues’ families and friends. After the initial shock at this massive loss, the IFJ will work to muster all its resources, working with our affiliates in Europe and beyond, to ensure that this crime does not go unpunished and justice is done for the victims,” Mr. Boumelha added.
Reports said that the attacks came as a response to the newspaper’s history of publishing satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad, though this has yet to be confirmed. Police had been posted outside the newspaper’s headquarters because of threats made to the newspaper and the premises had been firebombed in 2011.
Moderate Muslim leaders and organisations added their voices to condemn the attack as “barbaric” and that Islamic extremists who committed violent acts were the “biggest enemies of Islam.”
The French Council of the Muslim Religion was reported in Bloomberg to have condemned the attack, calling for calm: “All those committed to the values of the Republic [of France] and democracy to avoid provocations that only serve to throw oil on the fire.”
The Bloomberg article also noted that the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Saudi Arabia abhorred the attack, quoting a spokesperson for the OIC’s Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah stating that such violent extremists were the “biggest enemies of Islam.”
Tens of thousands of people worldwide also marched in the streets to offer solidarity to a free press and freedom of expression, chanting the French slogan “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).