World Bulletin/News Desk
At least 12 people have been killed and three are fighting for their lives, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins has said, after an armed gang attacked the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which sparked controversy in 2006 and 2012 for publishing comic cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Le Figaro reports that acclaimed cartoonists Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier and Georges Wolinski are among the those killed in the attack.
Three masked armed men armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles attacked people inside the building on Wednesday, also injuring about 10 people, five critically, before they fled.
French police were pursuing the gang through the streets of the French capital at midday.
Separately, the government said it was raising France's national security level to the highest notch.
President Francois Hollande confirmed the deaths, which included at least two policemen, on Wednesday and called the shootings "an attack on liberty".
"This is an act of unacceptable barbarity against journalists who have shown that, in France, we have freedom of expression," he said.
An hour before the attack, the magazine had tweeted a cartoon of ISIL leader Abu-Baker Al Baghdadi celebrating 2015, saying: "Best wishes, especially health."
The French Prime Ministry office said public places such as malls and public transportation would be protected by extra police forces.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron also condemned the attack, saying: "The murders in Paris are sickening."
"We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press."
The Muslim Council has condemned the attack as a "barbaric act" against "democracy," according to Le Monde.
The attack, as yet unclaimed, comes amid what a number of commentators have identified as rising xenophobia in Europe, with thousands of protesters in several German cities rallying earlier this week against Muslim immigration. France's five-million-strong Muslim population is Europe's largest.
"I am extremely angry. These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom. This is not Islam and I hope the french will come out united at the end of this," said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque in Paris's Seine-Saint-Denis northern suburb.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany stands by France in this difficult moment.
"This abominable act is not only an attack on the lives of French citizens and their security," Merkel said in a statement. "It is also an attack on freedom of speech and the press, core elements of our free democratic culture. In no way can this be justified."
French TV channel iTELE quoted a witness as saying he saw the incident from a building nearby in the heart of the French capital.
"About a half an hour ago two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs (guns)," Benoit Bringer told the station. "A few minutes later we heard lots of shots," he said, adding that the men were then seen fleeing the building.
Charlie Hebdo triggered controversy in February, 2006 , when it ran a front page with the headline "Mohammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists" picturing a tearful Prophet Mohammad saying: "It's hard being loved by jerks."
It reprinted 12 cartoons first published by Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten in 2005, which had triggered outrage among Muslims around the world, along with some extra ones produced by its own staff.
Its offices also suffered an arson attack in 2011 and its website was hacked a day after it renamed a special edition "Charia Hebdo" and listed Prophet Mohammed its editor-in-chief.
Last Mod: 07 Ocak 2015, 16:50