PARIS [PeterPaul.ca] — Three heavily armed gunmen with possible links to Islamic extremist groups killed 12 people at the headquarters of a satirical newspaper Wednesday in the French capital, officials confirmed.
Among the dead in the targeted attack are eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor, a French prosecutor confirmed. Media reports said the gunman called out the names of the individuals as they shot them dead in cold blood inside the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo.
The government responded swiftly, raising the national terror alert system to “Attack alert”—the highest level—and deploying over 800 French soldiers in Paris and its suburbs alongside police and other specialized units, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The resources will be deployed to guard places of worship, tourist attractions and other media offices around the city, the government said.
In a statement, Reporters Without Borders, called on news editors to publish cartoons and caricatures from Charlie Hebdo, who “has always emphasized his fight for freedom of expression.” “Known throughout the world for these cartoons, Charlie Hebdo has always emphasized his fight for freedom of expression. Today, his writing is bruised,” the statement read.
The Associated Press identified the suspects as French citizens who used unaccented French as they called out the names of the victims. Video shot by a witness shows two gunmen dressed in military-style uniforms armed with assault rifles approach the building and open fire.
Specialized police units conducted night-time raids in Reims in the northeast of Paris directly related to the attacks but few details were available at press time due to the sensitivity of the case.
NBC News, who reported afterwards that two of the gunman were dead and the other captured by police, quickly retracted this report saying their US counter-terrorism sources could not be sure. France24 reported live late Wednesday that an 18-year-old suspect had been arrested but that was yet to be confirmed by officials.
Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly threatened after publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the past and the same offices had been firebombed in 2011. Both al Qaeda and Islamic State [ISIS, ISIL] have threatened France—who are fighting militants in Africa and are engaged in the war against ISIS in Iraq.
France will observe a national day of mourning on Thursday to honour those lost, President Francois Hollande said.