Charlie Hebdo Shooting: 12 Killed at Muhammad Cartoons Magazine in Paris
PARIS — Masked Muslim gunmen armed with AK-47s and shouting "Allahu Akbar" stormed the offices of a French satirical news magazine Wednesday in a terror attack that left 12 people dead, including the editor and two police officers.
The suspects shot dead one of the officers on the street as they fled — escaping first in a black Citroen that they abandoned after a crash, and then in a sedan they carjacked from a bystander.
There was no verified claim of responsibility or motive for the ambush, but the target, a weekly publication called Charlie Hebdo, has published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and was firebombed three years ago.
Late in the day, authorities released the names of three suspects: Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, both in their 30s, and 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad. Officials later said the youngest suspect had turned himself in.
France declared Thursday a national day of mourning, raised its terror threat level and stepped up security for media organizations, large stores and places of worship, and launched a manhunt for the killers with the assistance of the FBI.
"We will find the people who did this," French President Francois Hollande vowed. He later called for national unity.
"Freedom is always bigger than barbarism," he said. "Vive la France."
Condemnation of the attack, which unfolded at 11:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. ET), poured in from the Vatican to the White House.
President Barack Obama said in a statement that "the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended." Secretary of State John Kerry called the victims "martyrs for liberty."
They included the paper's editor, Stephane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name Charb — and his police guard, according to the Associated Press, citing a police union spokesman. Also killed was economist and writer Bernard Maris, who is a senior figure with France's central bank. Eleven people were injured, four of them critically.
Prosecutors said two gunmen wearing balaclavas arrived at the building in a black Citroen C3 and killed a maintenance worker on the way in before heading to the third-floor editorial offices of the magazine. There, they shot dead eight journalists, a guest and a police officer who had been assigned to protect workers.
"Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo," one of the men shouted in French, according to one video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French TV.
In another video, shouts of “Allahu Akbar” — or “God is great” — can be heard as the shootings took place. The Associated Press reported that the gunmen spoke flawless, unaccented French.
“It was a pretty horrible sight,” said Anders Lund, a 28-year-old musician who heard the gunshots from his apartment just 200 yards away. “I heard a few bangs, loud ones,” he told NBC News. “I did not know they were gunshots until I heard all the sirens.”
“I went down there, and there were officers and people from ambulances in the street. It was pretty chaotic...From afar I could see people on stretchers being carried out. It did not look good.”