Mourners gather as manhunt for Paris gunmen continues

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07 Jan 2015

Paris - Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in Paris and other French cities on Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of a massacre by Islamist gunmen at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

In Paris, crowds of people swarmed into the Place de la Republique that lies barely a kilometre from the scene of the bloodbath that has shocked France. At least 20 000 people also gathered in the French cities of Lyon and Toulouse, police said, after 12 people were killed by heavily armed gunmen screaming "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest).

Demonstrators wore black stickers marked "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), a slogan aimed at showing solidarity with the victims of the deadliest attack in France in decades.

Others waved banners with slogans such as "Press freedom has no price" and "Charb mort libre" (Charb died free), a reference to the newspaper's slain editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier.

Charbonnier was one of four cartoonists killed in the attack that also left 11 people injured.

"It's terrible that these people were murdered. In future, no-one will be able to speak his mind. We have to demonstrate in our thousands," said Beatrice Cano, a demonstrator in her fifties, who was carrying the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo.

Other cities around the world were also planning rallies to pay tribute to the dead. - AFP

07 Jan 2015

Berlin - Germany's new anti-immigration movement seized on Wednesday's deadly attack by militants on a Paris magazine, saying it highlighted the threat of Islamist violence it has been warning against.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government have condemned the grassroots movement Pegida, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, which drew a record crowd of 18 000 to its latest rally on Monday in Dresden.

Gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a French satirical magazine known for lampooning radical Islam on Wednesday. At least 12 people were killed in the attack, the worst by militants on French soil in decades. One gunman was seen on video shouting "Allah!" as shots rang out.

"The Islamists, against whom Pegida has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of (practising) democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution," Pegida wrote on its Facebook page.

"Our political leaders want us to believe the opposite is true," the group added.

"Does a tragedy like this first have to happen in Germany?"

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the attack in Paris had nothing to do with Islam.

"Islamic extremists and Islamic terror are something entirely different from Islam," he said.

"It is immensely important to underscore that difference on a day like today." - Reuters

07 Jan 2015

Stockholm - Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who stirred controversy in 2007 with published drawings depicting the Prophet Mohammad as a dog, has had security around him tightened after Wednesday's attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

"Yes, they have strengthened protection around me. They have taken different measures," Vilks told Reuters in a telephone interview, without giving further details.

Vilks, under constant protection by the Swedish police since 2010, has received numerous death threats and in early 2014 an American woman who called herself Jihad Jane was sentenced to 10 years in prison for plotting to kill him. - Reuters

07 Jan 2015

Paris - The calm, cold determination and deadly efficiency of the gunmen who attacked a French satirical magazine on Wednesday, leaving 12 people dead, has led police to believe they received military-style training.

Images of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, taken on cellphones, show a carefully planned and professional operation, said a former bodyguard and policeman, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It is obvious from the way they hold their guns and proceed calmly, coldly. They certainly received some kind of military training," said another police officer.

"They weren't acting on the spur of the moment."

In particular, he pointed to the way they held their Kalashnikov rifles close to their bodies, firing off shot by shot instead of a burst of gunfire, saying this showed they knew how to use the weapon.

The former bodyguard said: "The most striking thing is their cold-bloodedness. They were trained in Syria, in Iraq or elsewhere. Maybe even in France but one thing is sure: they were trained."

Another sign of the killers' sang-froid was seen as they struggled to find their target, first stopping at the wrong address.

"They didn't lose it and start firing. They kept on to the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo." - AFP

07 Jan 2015

Paris - Long before being targeted in Wednesday's massacre in Paris, satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo had been considered high on the potential hit-list for jihadists calling for strikes in the heart of Europe.

When Charlie Hebdo defiantly republished already controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed considered sacrilegious by Muslims in 2006, it knew it was taking a risk.

After it ran new cartoons of the prophet in November 2011, the payback started.

The weekly was fire-bombed and its website was hacked. But staff refused to be cowed and upped the ante still further the following year with a set of cartoons that included Mohammed in the nude - guaranteed to offend millions of Muslims.

In 2013, its editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier - one of those killed on Wednesday - appeared on a "Wanted Dead or Alive" list published in al-Qaeda's magazine, Inspire. "Charlie Hebdo became a symbol," said Louis Caprioli, former head of counter-terrorism at France's DST intelligence agency.

"They never forgot nor forgave what they considered a supreme insult. The choice of this target is highly symbolic: they targeted secularists who dared to mock the prophet. In their eyes, it's divine vengeance." - AFP

07 Jan 2015

New York - UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday condemned the "horrendous" attack on Paris weekly Charlie Hebdo, branding it an assault on the media and freedom of expression.

"It was a horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime. It was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy, on the media and on freedom of expression," Ban said. - AFP

07 Jan 2015

Rome - Italy called a meeting of its "anti-terrorism" committee on Wednesday to examine possible threats following an attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people.

The Strategic Anti-terrorism Analysis Committee, "made up of experts in anti-terrorism from the police force and intelligence services, will closely examine the terrorist threat in light of the grave attack," the interior ministry said in a statement.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called the meeting after two or three heavily armed gunmen stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly, the focus of several attacks since publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in the mid-2000s. - AFP

07 Jan 2015

Paris - France's Muslim leadership sharply condemned the shooting at a Paris satirical weekly that left at least 12 people dead as a "barbaric" attack and an assault on press freedom and democracy.

"This extremely grave barbaric action is also an attack against democracy and the freedom of the press," the French Muslim Council (CFCM) said in a statement.

The body represents France's Muslim community, which is Europe's biggest and estimated to number between 3.5 million and five million people.

The two or three heavily armed gunmen who stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly, the focus of several attacks since publishing cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in the mid-2000s, shouted Islamist slogans as they fired.

CFCM president Dalil Boubakeur, who heads the Paris Mosque, planned to visit the scene of the shooting, his entourage said.

The Muslim council also called for calm and urged Muslims to beware of extremist manipulation. - AFP

07 Jan 2015

Paris - Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper that was victim of a bloody attack on Wednesday claiming at least 12 lives, has never pulled its punches when it came to lambasting religion, especially radical Islam.

From publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammad that sparked Middle East riots in 2005 to renaming an edition "Sharia Hebdo" and listing Islam's prophet as its supposed editor-in-chief, the weekly has repeatedly caricatured Muslims and their beliefs.

Politically left-libertarian, it has gleefully fired barbs at other religions, such as the Catholic Church when it was mired in child sex abuse scandals several years ago, and devotes even more space to lampooning politicians on the right and left.

But its attacks on Muslims have caused the most controversy, including a court case on charges of racism and the firebombing of its offices in 2011 after the "Sharia Hebdo" edition. "Hebdo" is French slang for a weekly newspaper.The weekly has also made fun of the Muslim veil for women and ridiculed Islamist extremists. In the edition publishing the Danish cartoons, its cover had a drawing of Mohammad in tears, saying: "It's hard to be loved by jerks."

Hours after the event, police still had no information about the identity of the three attackers. But the widespread assumption in Paris was that they were Muslim extremists punishing the publication for years of criticising their faith.

Police said the weekly had received several threats in recent weeks and had permanent police protection. - Reuters

07 Jan 2015

Political leaders, journalists' groups and others around the world have expressed horror at the attack by gunmen on the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Here are some of the reactions:

"I don't understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war" — Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Gerard Biard to France Inter radio.

"This is an act of exceptional barbarism." — French President Francois Hollande.

"I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people.... France is America's oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris, where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers." — US President Barack Obama.

"This abhorrent act is not just an attack on the life of French citizens and the internal security of France. It also represents an attack on freedom of opinion and of the press, a core element of our free and democratic culture, for which there can be no justification." — German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"This House and this country stand united with the French people in our opposition to all forms of terrorism and we stand squarely for free speech and democracy. These people will never be able to take us off those values." — British Prime Minister David Cameron in the House of Commons.

"This was a barbaric act and an outrageous attack on press freedom. My thoughts are with the victims and their families. We stand in full solidarity with our ally France. All Nato allies stand together in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations can never be tolerated or justified." — Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

"We decisively condemn this cynical crime. We reaffirm our readiness to continue active cooperation in combating the threat of terrorism." — Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telegram of condolence to Hollande.

"Egypt stands by France in confronting terrorism, an international phenomenon that targets the world's security and stability and which requires coordinated international efforts to eradicate." — Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

"This is a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe." — Robert Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"This is a dark day for freedom of expression and a vibrant press culture. But above all, it is an appalling human tragedy." — Stephan Oberreit, director of Amnesty International France.

"This will create fear among people on a whole different level than we're used to. Charlie Hebdo was a small oasis. Not many dared do what they did. I don't know what's going to happen to them. Can they continue to publish the magazine?" — Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who lives under police protection after drawing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

07 Jan 2015

France's top security official confirms three gunmen carried out deadly attack on French paper. -  AP

07 Jan 2015

Washington -President Barack Obama offered help to French officials to pursue terrorists responsible for what he is calling a "horrific shooting" at a satirical weekly newspaper.

In a statement, Obama offered thoughts and prayers for the people of France, which he called "America's oldest ally."

He said France and Paris, where the attack occurred Wednesday, will endure beyond "the hateful vision of these killers".

Masked gunmen stormed the office of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing at least 12 people before escaping. - AP

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