Brussels, January 7, 2015–Heavily armed and hooded gunmen attacked the Paris office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo today, killing at least 12 people and injuring 20, in the worst attack on the media since the 2009 Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines.
French press reports said Stephane Charbonnier, chief editor of the weekly who was known as the cartoonist “Charb,” had been killed. Other reports said French cartoonists Cabu, Tignous, and Wolinski had died in the attack as well. CPJ could not independently confirm the reports.
“We are shocked and saddened by the horrific violence perpetrated against the weekly Charlie Hebdo–one of the deadliest media attacks ever documented by CPJ,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon from New York. “Around the world, journalists working in their own countries are targeted and killed because of what they publish or broadcast. An attack of this nature in Paris shows that the threat to journalists and free expression is global, with no safe haven.”
No organisation has claimed responsibility for the attack, but news reports cited witnesses as saying the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” and referred to the Prophet Muhammad. Police have launched an investigation into the attack, according to news reports.
Charlie Hebdo has been under threat from Islamic extremists and has been under police protection since the magazine was fire-bombed in 2011, a day after it published a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad and published a spoof edition “guest edited” by the Prophet, according to news reports. The magazine had continued to receive threats.
The attack occurred in a highly tense and politically volatile climate in a country confronted with the departure of hundreds of French citizens to Syria and Iraq, controversies around the place of Islam in the Republic, and the rise of the nationalist political party National Front, which topped the May 2014 elections to the European Parliament.
Charlie Hebdo‘s cover this week featured a cartoon on writer Michel Houellebecq, whose new book, Soumission (Submission), imagined the victory of a Muslim president by 2022 in France and was published this Wednesday, according to news reports.
The police today advised other media outlets to be on the alert, fearing other attacks. Metal shutters were down at the headquarters of the daily Le Monde. The attackers left the Charlie Hebdo offices in a waiting car and have not yet been apprehended.