Press freedom under attack: French cartoonists shot dead in Paris

They were executed for satire on Muslims by jihadists

GN Bureau | January 8, 2015


This is an image taken from the 2013 edition of al-Qaeda`s Inspire magazine, showing that Charb was on the terror group`s `most wanted` list.
This is an image taken from the 2013 edition of al-Qaeda`s Inspire magazine, showing that Charb was on the terror group`s `most wanted` list.

Charlie Hebdo magazine’s latest cover featured a caricature of controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, who has penned a novel set in a France governed by Muslims. On Wednesday noon (Paris time) its editor Stephane Charbonnier was shot dead along with 11 others in the magazine office during an editorial meeting.

Two masked, black-clad men with assault rifles stormed the magazine offices near Paris' Bastille monument. Shouting "Allahu akbar!" they fired as they called out the names of specific employees.

The publication has been courting controversy for its cartoons, especially on Islam. It was firebombed in 2011 for its depictions of Islam, although it also satirized other religions and political figures. The country has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, with an estimated 4.7 million living in France.

 


The magazine top editors were in an editorial meeting and the gunmen headed straight for the paper's editor, Stephane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name Charb — killing him and his police bodyguard first. The other dead were identified as cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Berbard Verlhac, better known as Tignous, and Jean Cabut, known as Cabu. Also killed was Bernard Maris, an economist who was a contributor to the newspaper.

Eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed, said prosecutor Francois Molins. He said 11 people were wounded — four of them seriously.

Two gunmen came in a black car one of them calmly shot a police officer before entering the magazine office. The wounded policeman was later shot in the head at point blank range as he writhed on the ground.

"They knew exactly what they had to do and exactly where to shoot. While one kept watch and checked that the traffic was good for them, the other one delivered the final coup de grace," said a witness.

"Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo," one of the men shouted in French, according to a video shot from a nearby building.

 

   
Killers are French nationals
 

The two brothers, both French nationals, called Saïd, 34, and Cherif Kouachi, 32, are the prime suspects in the attack.

Cherif was reportedly part of an Iraqi jihadi network dismantled by the police. He was sentenced to three years in prison with 18 months suspended in relation to terror charges in May 2008.
 

The two brothers are Franco-Algerians who came back from Syria this summer.

 
The magazine

Charlie Hebdo  was founded in 1969 as Hara-Kiri Hebdo. The founding editors, humorist Georges Bernier and François Cavanna, had their first brush with the establishment in November 1970 for writing about the death of Charles de Gaulle. He had died at home in the village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises aged 79, a week after a nightclub fire in south-eastern France killed 146 people.

"Tragic Ball at Colombey, one dead" was the magazine's headline. The country's interior minister had acted swiftly and banned Hara-Kiri Hebdo. After that ban it was forced to change the name of the magazine to Charlie Hebdo.
 

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