World Bulletin/News Desk
The black-clad gunmen who stormed the Paris office of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday spoke perfect French and acted like trained commandos, shooting victims in an apparently well-prepared attack.
Terrorism experts said the hooded gunmen, who wore matching jumpsuits with ammunition belts and carried Kalashnikov assault rifles, appeared to have carried out their attack methodically.
Charlie Hebdo's office had been under police protection since it was firebombed in 2011 after publishing drawings mocking the Prophet Mohammad. Still there were almost no police presence around the building during the 10 minutes attacked that killed 11 people inside.
The attack began shortly after 11.30 a.m. (1030 GMT) when two gunmen forced their way into the building in eastern Paris. They shot a technician at the reception desk, then opened fire on journalists gathered for a weekly news planning meeting, witnesses said. Most of the journalist often worked home because of the previous threats but they were in the building for the meeting.
The men accosted illustrator Corinne Rey on the ground floor, ordering her to enter a code to open the door to Charlie Hebdo's office. "They said they belonged to al Qaeda," Rey said, adding they had spoken in clear French.
In an attack lasting about five minutes the gunmen - who also carried a pump-action shotgun, according to a police trade union official - shot dead a police officer posted inside the office as well as eight journalists.
The victims included three cartoonists well known by their pen-names of Cabu, Wolinski and Charb, who was the publication's editor. Economist Bernard Maris, a columnist, was one of two visitors at the office who died.
Rey, who hid under a table during the carnage, said the gunmen called out some of their victims' names.
According to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, 11 more people were injured, of whom four remain in critical condition.
"All the victims were on the ground or sitting and those seriously injured were trying their best to breathe," emergency worker Patrick Hertgen said. "Many had been executed. Most had wounds to the head or torso."
After fleeing into the street, the gunmen exchanged fire with officers in the first police car to respond to emergency calls and with two policemen on mountain bikes before firing repeatedly at a second patrol car.
Amateur video filmed from a nearby rooftop showed a gunman walking up to a wounded policeman, who had staggered from the car to a nearby sidewalk, and shooting him dead point-blank.
The gunmen drove off toward northeastern Paris. They collided with a motorist before abandoning their car on a busy square and hijacking another vehicle as they escaped into the northern suburbs.
Although only two gunmen were visible on the videos at the crime scene, the motorist said there were three attackers.
Security forces had been searching for the attackers, who fled in a Citroen hatchback that is being examined by forensics teams after being dumped. A police source told that one of the three suspects had been identified because his identity card was left in the getaway car.
Authorities have put the country on a "scarlet" terror alert, which means that an attack is imminent.
While the gunmen's faces remained concealed throughout the attack, police recovered numerous shell casings at the scene as well as a glove that could yield DNA forensic evidence helping to identify the wearer.
The attack left many questions, however, as the attackers were appeared to be profesionals and so calm in their violant notions. One question that remains "how is it possible after all, to act casual with guns in daylight at the center of such an important metrapolitan?"
The attack occurred in a time that Islamophobic attempts raising especially in Europe. Previous years witnessed many other Islamophobic cartoons published various European countries like Denmark, yet there were no such scaled attacks.
Two of the three suspects in Wednesday's shooting were well-known to French police. Cherif Kouachi, 32, was jailed in 2008 for participating in a group that incited young people to fight in Iraq and Syria. After his release in 2010, Kouachi began sharing radical views, learned in prison, with his older brother, 34-year-old Said Kouachi.
The younger brother was detained again two years later in connection with a plot to help a militant leader escape from jail. The older brother was also a suspect in the case.
Why did the French intelligence forces not keep the Kouachi brothers under surveillance?
"This attack bears a considerable resemblance to the attack on a Jewish school by Mohammed Merah in 2012," French terrorism expert Xavier Raufer, told AA. "In the Merah case, there was no connection with terrorist organizations, but a single radicalized young person. The two suspects are a family group, two brothers and a friend, gone wrong. Since Kouachi was released from prison, there had been no direct connection with the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, nor with groups related to the fighting in those countries."
In March, 2012, Mohammed Merah, a French citizen with Algerian roots, killed seven people in three separate attacks in the cities of Montauban and Toulouse, in southern France. He was killed after police mounted a siege of his apartment that lasted more than 30 hours.
Merah was known to French intelligence officials and was radicalized in prison, according to news accounts.
But how did the two brothers who are suspects in the Paris attack obtain the arms and the training to perpetrate it?
"Arms of this type are easily obtained illegally in France," said Jean-Charles Brisard, another expert with JCB International Consulting in Paris.
"There is considerable traffic in arms of that type," Brisard the French newspaper Les Echos.
"They were clearly well-trained, and they knew how to handle their weapons," he said.
But, like Raufer, Brisard does not believe that the two suspects had a formal connection to militant groups.
"The police will find out their motivation," he said.
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2015, 16:31