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Manhunt for gunmen in Paris after twelve killed in massacre at satirical magazine offices

Police have said that the gunmen shouted, “We have avenged the prophet” during the attack.

Updated 11.55pm

TWELVE PEOPLE HAVE been killed at a shooting at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in what is believed to have been an Islamist attack.

Ten of the dead are staff at the magazine, including some of the most well-known cartoonists in France, and Stephane Charbonnier, the editor. The other two fatalities were police officers.

France Newspaper Attack Police and firemen gather outside the offices of the magazine Source: AP/Press Association Images

Three masked gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher stormed the offices of the publication in Paris this morning at approximately 11.30am – 10.30am GMT – leaving a large number of casualties, at least four of whom are in critical condition.

The three men have been identified, French police have confirmed.

What we know:

  • Twelve people are dead – including two police officers
  • The three attackers escaped by car and remain at large
  • France has raised its terror alert to its highest level
  • The suspected attackers are said to be brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi and Hamyd Mourad, linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, according to police reports that have not been confirmed by government figures
  • A raid by an anti-terrorist unit is underway in Reims

What we don’t know

The office was especially busy because the magazine was due to go to press today.

The assailants escaped in a car, running over a pedestrian and shooting at officers as they did so. A major police operation is underway across Paris to find them.

This evening, AFP reported that a raid by France’s elite anti-terrorist unit is underway in the northeastern city of Reims as part of the hunt for the gunmen.

This is reportedly a photo from the scene:

A member of the unit urged journalists at the scene to remain “vigilant”.

Police have said that the gunmen shouted, “We have avenged the prophet” during the attack. The magazine has repeatedly taken aim at radical Islam and has been criticised by some Muslims for its cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.

Paris is said to have gone into “lockdown” following the attack.

French president Francois Hollande said the shooting was “undoubtedly a terrorist attack”.

The attack has been condemned around the world. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the murder of journalists at their place of work” is a direct attack on the basic values of freedom of speech and of tolerance”.

At the scene

A video taken at the scene by a journalist on the roof of the building shows two men dressed in dark clothes firing shots on the street outside the building.

Source: Sky News/YouTube

One journalist who works for a news agency beside the Charlie Hebdo offices said a man with a gun came to his door and demanded to know where the Charlie Hebdo offices were.

Benoit Bringer told Franceinfo.fr that he saw two gunmen and both spoke broken French.

France Newspaper Attack One injured person is treated by medical personnel at the scene Source: AP/Press Association Images

Speaking at the scene, Francois Hollande said the shootings were a sickening attack on the country and its freedom of the press.

“We were threatened because we are a country of freedom – that is why we are fighting”.

We will punish the attackers. Nobody must think that in France anyone can go against the spirit of the republic and attack the symbol of freedom. [Twelve] people were killed today. We will look for the people responsible.

The government has raised its alert level to the highest possible in the greater Paris region.

Some journalists fled to the roof of the building as the attack was being carried out. This tweet from reporter Martin Boudot reads: “Attack by two hooded men on the premises of Charlie Hebdo. Refuge on the roof”.

Charlie Hebdo came to international prominence in 2006 when it reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed which had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper, causing fury across the Muslim world.

Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after it released a special edition that portrayed the Prophet Muhammed as a guest editor and took aim at radical Islam. However police have not yet said what the motivations behind today’s attack was and whether there was any link to the previous incidents.

Condemnation

Across the world, the attack has been condemned by politicians including Barack Obama, the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon and Ireland’s Taoiseach, Tánaiste and President.

Around the world, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie has been trending all day, while vigils will be held in cities spanning the globe.

The Dublin vigil takes place at 7.30pm on O’Connell Street.

In France, Google has added a black ribbon to their home page.

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Reims raid

French anti-terror police launched a late-night raid in a northeastern city in a frantic manhunt for the masked gunmen, AFP reports.

Local television showed black-clad sharpshooters from the elite police unit in the streets of Reims, in France’s Champagne region, as unconfirmed media reports named three suspects in the attack, including two brothers.

Several thousand police were deployed to find the gunmen and parts of the French capital were in lockdown as the killers remained on the loose.

In a sombre televised address, President Francois Hollande declared a day of national mourning on Thursday — only the fifth in the past 50 years — after the worst attack on French soil in decades.

“Nothing can divide us, nothing should separate us. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarity,” said the president, who ordered flags flown at half-mast for the next three days.

More than 100,000 gathered across France, many protesters carrying banners reading: “I am Charlie” while the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie was trending worldwide including in Arabic.

Visit

The French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir was due to visit Cork tomorrow, but this visit has been cancelled.

Reaction around the world

Spain upgraded its anti-terrorist security level a notch today, following the attack.

Speaking after emergency government talks to review security, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said the country’s anti-terrorist security level was being upgraded a notch and that the government was exchanging information with France.

But the measures were merely precautionary, he added.

  • France raised its alert status for Paris to the highest level of “attack alert” shortly after the assault.
  • In Rome, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called a meeting of senior intelligence and security advisors to “closely examine the terrorist threat in the wake of this very serious attack”.
  • His Spanish counterpart Jorge Fernandez Diaz also planned to hold a meeting of senior counterterrorism officials to “analyse” the Paris attack.
  • In London, Prime Minister David Cameron was briefed by intelligence services on the security situation but British authorities had no plans to upgrade the current alert level, which is already at “severe” — indicating an attack is “highly likely”.
  • Belgium decided to keep its alert level unchanged but security has been stepped up around certain unnamed sites, a government source said, adding that while there was “no reason to give into panic” the security services were fully “mobilised”.
  • In Denmark, Jyllands-Posten, the daily which triggered global protests by publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2005 that were later reprinted by Charlie Hebdo, said it had also implemented extra security measures.

Originally reported 11.16am

Additional reporting – Paul Hosford, Aoife Barry

Previously: French newspaper firebombed ahead of Arab Spring issue > 

Read: French satirical magazine published naked Muhammed cartoons > 

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