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Terrorist Attack on Satirical Magazine in Paris
On Wednesday morning, two gunmen wearing black hoods and carrying Kalashnikovs killed twelve people, including two police officers, and seriously wounded several others in an apparent terrorist attack on the offices of a French satirical news magazine that had published cartoons of Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
The two gunmen and a getaway driver escaped after killing a police officer. The driver turned himself in but the killers are currently on the loose and being hunted by French police.
Here are a few answers to questions about the attack:
Why is it assumed to be a terrorist attacks by Muslims?
In an eyewitness video of the attack, the gunmen are heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) while the shootings took place.
According to a video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV, one of the men shouted in French, “Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo.”
The attack is believed to be in response to a recent tweet by the publication of a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, with the caption (in French): “Best wishes, by the way.”
France has raised its terror threat level following the shooting.
What is Charlie Hebdo?
Charlie Hebdo (French for Charlie Weekly) is a French satirical weekly newspaper that is left-wing and antireligious; the publication has a history of mocking Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The magazine published the Danish cartoons of Muhammad that sparked Middle East riots in 2005, renamed an edition “Shariah Hebdo” (listing Islam’s prophet as its supposed editor-in-chief), and repeatedly caricatures Muslims and their beliefs.
The magazine’s office was firebombed in 2011 after its “Shariah Hebdo” edition, and France was forced to close its embassies and schools in 20 countries in 2012 after the magazine published cartoons of Muhammad.
A cartoon released in this week’s issue and titled “Still No Attacks in France,” had a caricature of a jihadi fighter saying “Just wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.”
How did the terrorists escape?
After shooting a police officer, the gunmen escaped by hijacking a carto use as a getaway vehicle. They later abandoned that vehicle and hijacked another car at gunpoint.
Who are the terrorists?
Police in France are searching for two French nationals, brothers Said Kouachi, age 34, and Chérif Kouachi, age 32. Hamyd Mourad, age 18, turned himself in to police in northeastern France, an official at theParis prosecutor’s office said.
The brothers were known to France’s intelligence services because Chérif was convicted of terrorism in 2008 for ties to network that sends radical fighters to Iraq. His lawyer confirmed Thursday that police tracked down the identities of the brothers because one left his ID behind in a getaway car.
The French newspaper Libération described Chérif as an orphan whose parents were Algerian immigrants. He was raised in foster care in western France and trained as a fitness instructor before moving to Paris, where he lived with his brother Said in the home of a convert to Islam. He held menial jobs, working at times as a pizza delivery man, shop assistant and fishmonger.
When Chérif was brought to trial in 2008 his lawyer portrayed him as an “occasional Muslim” who smoked marijuana and listened to rap music when not attending classes on jihad.
What has been the response by the U.S. government?
Secretary of State John Kerry released a videotaped statement in which he said:
They may wield weapons, but we in France and the United States share a commitment to those who wield something that is far more powerful — not just a pen, but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom, not fear. Free expression and a free press are core values. They are universal values. Principles that can be attacked but never eradicated because brave and decent people around the world will never give in to the intimidation and terror that those seeking to destroy those values employ.
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