The Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, were attacked around noon local time yesterday by a group of armed men. Armed with AK-47s, a shotgun, and an RPG, two of the men stormed the offices and immediately opened fire. The gunmen swept throughout the building, attempting to find specific people. Once finding them, they would shoot them in the head, execution-style. In videos of the incident that have since been posted online, one can hear the gunmen screaming “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) all while executing employees of the magazine and police officers. As the gunmen jumped in their getaway car, they chanted “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!” Twelve people, including Charlie Hebdo‘s editor Stéphane Charb Charbonnier and two police officers, were killed during the rampage; another eleven were wounded.
The Islamist militants made a crucial mistake when they were attempting to flee; one of the two left his ID card in the getaway car. This led authorities to believe Algerian brothers Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34, are the perpetrators of this horrendous act of violence.
Both brothers have had prior run-ins with the law in the past. Cherif has spent time in prison for links to terrorsim and was charged with a foiled attempt to bust Algerian Islamist Smain Ait Ali Belkacem out of jail in 2010. Said travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he may of received weapons training from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula (AQAP). Both had been placed on the US database of known or suspected international terrorists as well a no-fly list.
Earlier today, the two men hijacked a car in Paris and drove it to an industrial complex in Dammartin-en-Goele, a town 22 miles north of Paris. They then proceeded to barricade themselves inside the building of the company CTD (Création Tendance Découverte) where the men made the employees their hostages. The industrial complex was cordoned off by authorities and hordes of heavily armed police forces soon poured into the complex.
Through a telephone inside the building, authorities were able to get in contact with the terrorists. During the call, the brothers claimed to have carried the attacks on behalf of al-Qaeda in Yemen and that they are willing to “die through martyrdom.”
As the standoff at the industrial complex was happening, another gunman stormed a kosher grocery store in Paris and began shooting. Police were promptly at the scene but by the time they arrived, the gunman killed at least two people and took another five as hostage. French authorities soon confirmed the gunman to be Amedy Coulibaly, the same man responsible for shooting and killing a policewoman the same morning of the terrorist attacks. Coulibaly threatened to begin killing hostages if the police stormed the brothers at the industrial complex. Despite the threat, the French still launched an assault on the terrorists. According to sources, the two brothers came out firing at security forces and were subsequently in a hailstorm of bullets. In a simultaneous assault on the Jewish supermarket, Coulibaly was also killed. Four hostages in the supermarket were killed while all the hostages at the complex made it out alive.
Charlie Hebdo has been known to be extremely critical of Islamic extremists. This has drawn the ire of Muslims both in France and abroad, with some Islamist clerics and leaders even placing the editor of the magazine on a hit list. Back in 2011, the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed and their website hacked after an issue of their magazine was released. For this edition, the magazine was renamed Charia Hebdo, a play on Sharia Law, and featured the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as “editor-in-chief”. The cover of that edition depicted Muhammad (which is strictly forbidden in Islam) saying “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!”
While the attackers were hoping to silence Charlie Hebdo and other publications that are critical of Muslim extremists, the attack has actually encouraged more people to speak out against radical Islam. Condemnation of the attacks was broad and swift, with many Muslim nations calling it a cowardly act that does not truly represent the values of Islam.
Despite having suffered major losses to their magazine, the staff of Charlie Hebdo announced that publication of the magazine will continue. Charlie Hebdo typically has a weekly run of 60,000 copies, but the next weekly edition will have a run of a million copies. The Fund for Digital Innovation has donated €250,000 in order to help cover the costs of printing and distributing.
Some critics are saying that Charlie Hebdo may have had the attack coming because they were mocking Islam, but they seem to forget that the magazine often lampoons Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism as much if not more so. There should be no arbitrary force which dictates what is okay to lampoon and satire and what is not. Every belief should be able to be lampooned and satirized, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people have to agree with it or put up with it. Despite being offensive to Muslims, I strongly believe that there is a much better way to show your disagreement than killing innocent people. The attacks on Charlie Hebdo, while not representative of most Muslims world-wide, do paint a negative image of Muslims in the minds of some French and Europeans alike.
In a way, the attacks went beyond just being an act of terror and became a recruitment tool for Jihadist groups in the middle east, such as the Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda. The hope of these groups is that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo (as well as the scores of other attacks in Europe) will cause a wave of Islamophobia in Europeans. The attacks would prompt some Europeans to become more prejudice and perhaps act out in violence against Muslims. This in turn would alienate Muslims and make them feel a great resentment towards Europe and the West. Some young, alienated Muslim men would be enticed to fight for the glory of the Islamic State, or any other group trying to destroy the Great Satan (AKA the United States) and his allies (France, Great Britain, Sweden, Belgium, etc.). They would be ripe for the picking.
As a fellow writer and someone who enjoys the fine art of satire, I am appalled by this vicious attack. In Loco Politico stands in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and those who lost their lives as well as their families. The perpetrators of this terrorist attack are vile sub-human beings with no regard for the lives of others or their freedoms to express themselves. Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are two rights that are at the pillar of any functioning and free society. What these men did was an attack on these freedoms and we as humans must denounce this cowardly act.