Four of France’s most highly regarded cartoonists were among the 12 people murdered in an attack on the Paris office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo this morning, January 7.
The magazine’s publisher, Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, as well as editorial cartoonists Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, and Georges Wolinski were in a weekly editorial meeting when two or three masked men (reports vary) dressed in black and armed with automatic rifles arrived at the magazine’s office in Paris’s 11th arrondissement, demanding to be taken to see specific employees. Upon arrival in the conference room, the attackers shot the assembled journalists and cartoonists, killing 10. According to one police report cited by Libération, the gunfire lasted about 10 minutes.
Exiting the building, the shooters fired on an approaching police car, killing both the officers inside. The gunmen then fled the scene in their black Citroën, crashed into a bollard, hijacked a grey Renault, and continued to flee. Though police have lost their trail, the roads out of Paris have been blocked, and the killers are believed to still be in the city.
Shortly before this morning’s attack, the magazine tweeted a cartoon of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi belatedly wishing readers good health in the new year.
“An act of exceptional barbarity has just been committed,” French President François Hollande said while visiting the site of the attack. “Against a newspaper. That is to say, against freedom of expression.”
The attack is believed to be in retaliation for the magazine’s satirical portrayals of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, an issue that has seen the staunchly left-wing publication targeted before. In November 2011 its website was hacked and its office firebombed the day before the publication of a special issue titled “Charia Hebdo,” which the magazine facetiously claimed had been guest-edited by Mohammed.
“If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying,” Charbonnier told BBC News at the time. “This is the first time we have been physically attacked, but we won’t let it get to us.”
A rally is planned for 7pm local time in the Place de la République in support of Charlie Hebdo and free speech. In New York, a rally will take place at 7pm in Union Square. Messages and images of support on social media are being hash-tagged #JeSuisCharlie (or “I Am Charlie”).
Video of the shooters firing in the streets outside the Charlie Hebdo office was captured by journalists who’d taken refuge on the roof of a nearby building.
Update: Cartoonists all over the world are creating images of support and posting them online. Some highlights below: