Masked gunmen shouting Allah Akbar shot and killed 12 people and critically injured 4 others at a Paris newspaper earlier today.
Reportedly armed with a Kalashnikov and a rocket launcher, the attackers are said to have hijacked a car, run over a pedestrian and shot at police officers in their escape from the scene. Two police officers are reported to have been killed.
The target of the attack was a satirical publication called Charlie Hebdo, which in 2012 reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that had created a furor when they were originally printed in a Danish publication. This week Charlie Hebdo featured the book “Soumission” by Nichel Houellebecq, which imagines a France that is ruled by an Islamic government.
President Francois Hollande called the attack, “An act of exceptional barbarism … against a newspaper, meaning (against) the expression of liberty.”
The White House condemned the attacks “in the strongest possible terms,” and British Prime Minister said in a tweet, “We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”
If I sound incoherent, it’s because I am shaken. The reasons will be obvious.
I had no intention of reporting on this from the scene of the Charlie-Hebdo massacre. I was walking up Boulevard Richard Lenoir to meet a friend who lives in the neighborhood. But the moment I saw what I did, I knew for sure what had happened. A decade in Turkey teaches you that. That many ambulances, that many cops, that many journalists, and those kinds of faces can mean only one thing: a massive terrorist attack.
I also knew from the location just who’d been attacked: Charlie-Hebdo, the magazine known for many things, but, above all, for its fearlessness in publishing caricatures of Mohamed. They’d been firebombed for this in 2011, but their response — in effect — was the only one free men would ever consider: “As long as we’re alive, you’ll never shut us up.”
They are no longer alive. They managed to shut them up.