Massive manhunt for killers in French magazine massacre

Published: January 8, 2015
A man holds a placard reading "I am Charlie" during a gathering at the Old Harbor in Marseille on January 7, 2015, following an attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. PHOTO: AFP

A man holds a placard reading "I am Charlie" during a gathering at the Old Harbor in Marseille on January 7, 2015, following an attack by unknown gunmen on the offices of the satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS: French security forces on Thursday launched a massive manhunt for two brothers suspected of killing 12 people in an extremist attack on a satirical weekly in Paris, the deadliest attack in France in half a century.

The attack triggered an international outpouring of solidarity, with demonstrations spreading from Moscow to Washington, as world leaders and other media including newspaper cartoonists united in their revulsion of the daylight assault.

More than 100,000 people took to the streets across France to express their outrage, many carrying banners reading: “I am Charlie” while the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie was trending worldwide.

President Francois Hollande called the massacre —  thought to be the worst attack on French soil since 1961 — “an act of exceptional barbarity” and “undoubtedly a terrorist attack”.

In the hunt for the attackers, police published pictures of the wanted men in an urgent appeal for information as a manhunt stretched long into the night with a raid by elite anti-terror police in the northern city of Reims.

An 18-year-old suspected of being an accomplice in the attack at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo magazine was taken into custody after surrendering to police in a small town in the same region as Reims.

A source close to the case said Hamyd Mourad surrendered after “seeing his name circulating on social media”.

But the masked, black-clad gunmen — who shouted “Allahu akbar” while killing some of France’s most outspoken journalists as well as two policemen — were still on the loose.

Arrest warrants had been issued for Cherif Kouachi, 32, convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters to Iraq, and his 34-year-old brother Said. Both were born in Paris.

Search-and-seizure operations took place in Strasbourg and towns near Paris, while in Reims police commandos carried out a raid on a building later scoured by white-clad forensic police.

Day of mourning

Flags were to fly at half-mast Thursday as Hollande declared a day of national mourning — only the fifth of the past 50 years.

“Nothing can divide us, nothing should separate us. Freedom will always be stronger than barbarity,” said the president.

The attack saw the gunmen storm the offices of Charlie Hebdo in broad daylight as journalists gathered for a morning editorial conference, killing eight journalists, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists.

Charlie Hebdo has long provoked controversy, mocking many religions with provocative drawings, a practice that has outraged Muslims whose religion forbids depictions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Even before the attack France was on high alert like many European capitals that have seen citizens leave to fight alongside the radical Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The group has singled out France, which is home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, when calling for terrorist attacks against Western nations.

Hollande called for “national unity”, adding that “several terrorist attacks had been foiled in recent weeks”.

US President Barack Obama led the global condemnation of what he called a “cowardly, evil” assault. Pope Francis described it as a “horrible attack” saying such violence, “whatever the motivation, is abominable, it is never justified”.

Security experts said the calculated and deadly efficacy of the killers showed they were highly-trained.

Chilling amateur video footage showed the attackers calmly walking towards a wounded policeman as he lay on the pavement before one shot him at close range.

Prosecutors said 11 people were also wounded in the attack, with four in critical condition.

The imam of Drancy mosque in the northern suburbs of Paris, Hassen Chalghoumi, visited the scene, calling the shooters “barbarians”.

“They want terror, they want fear. We must not give in. I hope the French will come out in solidarity and not against the Muslim minority in Europe.”

One witness said: “I saw them leaving and shooting. They were wearing masks. These guys were serious.

“At first I thought it was special forces chasing drug traffickers or something,” said the man, who declined to give his name.

The attack stunned local residents.

“It’s awful, it’s awful,” said Anne Pajon, a Scot who has lived in Paris for 20 years, as she waited at the busy Saint Lazare train station.

“It’s scary. What’s worrying is that we can’t do anything. That’s terrorism — it hits whatever we do. We cannot prevent it.”

‘We have avenged the prophet’

Charlie Hebdo gained notoriety in February 2006 when it reprinted cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that had originally appeared in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten.

Its offices were fire-bombed in November 2011 when it published a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) under the title “Sharia Hebdo”.

Even being dragged to court under anti-racism laws did not stop the publication, which in September 2012 again drew Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The killers on Wednesday shouted “we have avenged the prophet, we have killed Charlie Hebdo”, according to prosecutors.

The attack took place on the day the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo was published.

It featured a cartoon of an armed militant noting “Still no attacks in France. Wait! We have until the end of January to send greetings”. That was a reference to France’s tradition of wishing someone a Happy New Year before January 31.

Editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb and who had lived under police protection after receiving death threats, was among those killed.

Other victims included Jean Cabut, known across France as Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac, better known as Tignous.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack “sickening” while Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as the Arab League were also among those condemning the violence.

Iran condemned the killings but reiterated its criticism of the weekly’s 2006 publication of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Pakistan condemns massacre

Pakistan on Thursday condemned the terror attack deploring terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“We extend our condolences to the government and people of France on the loss of life,” a Foreign Office statement said.

“We are confident that the international community will continue to stand firm against terrorism and bring the perpetrators of terrorist acts to justice,” the statement added.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • safk
    Jan 8, 2015 - 11:35AM

    @unknown: I think you need a mental check up for asking for blessings for killers. This is the same lunatic mentality behind the Peshawar massacre. No to spreading hate.


  • escargot
    Jan 8, 2015 - 12:05PM

    Journalism is a risky profession.

    I hope the killers are brought to justice.


  • Ashraf
    Jan 8, 2015 - 12:34PM

    Just wait until ISIS makes its grand entry into Pakistan.


  • Terrorist
    Jan 8, 2015 - 12:45PM

    This is the reason why muslims are hated and get beaten up everywhere!!


  • Aftab
    Jan 8, 2015 - 1:11PM

    @unknown, it is people like you who should be behind bars! You seeking blessing for these criminals? Have you no sense? They killed human beings in cold blood! I am sure they will be caught soon, including their handlers. In my opinion, they should be hung publicly in the city square for all to see! Bring back capital punishment!


  • George
    Jan 8, 2015 - 1:27PM

    I think this attack also have some connection with pakistan.


  • Stranger
    Jan 8, 2015 - 1:57PM

    Sweety I didnt understand . Who should be blessed – the killers or the killed ones ?


  • Abdullah
    Jan 8, 2015 - 2:20PM

    @escargot : Journalism is not an risky job if it is full of controversies.


  • Ahmed
    Jan 8, 2015 - 2:32PM

    Why every one in the world doubt us on all atrocities committed.Our image is tarnished in world stage as a pakistani and we afraid to call us pakistanis once we reach europe or america.Yes we have bad guys in our country as well and very few good guys


  • Jan 8, 2015 - 2:35PM

    And what made you think that? Do you also think that every child birth in your has a connection with Pakistan?


  • Khan
    Jan 8, 2015 - 2:56PM

    Well said,including me and some of our friends circle pretend to be like indians in australia to keep good image with whites.


  • IndianTroll
    Jan 8, 2015 - 3:18PM

    @Khan.. ok mr. indian troll.. atleast speak some sense.. do u remember just a few years ago hundreds of Indians were killed in racist riots in Australia.. if you had a brain of the size of an ant, you would know that Indians are the most hated people in Australia. stop embarassing yourself.

    P.S. since when Pakistanis got as dark-skinned, short-heighted and skinny as the Indians ? even if a Pakistani tries to appear as an Indian (which is never gonna happen) , he would fail.. i would rather pose as a Sri-Lankan or a Bangladeshi


  • Harish
    Jan 8, 2015 - 3:38PM

    Why are making fool yourself and your country men.A canadian citizen of pakistani orgin itself told me that he is from delhi, later admitted that he migrated to pakistan during partition.At least why can’t he claim that he is from pakistan in the first instance ! This is not an individual case.


  • Visibly
    Jan 8, 2015 - 11:23PM

    And it shows how Western countries target mass murderers. Very dedicated.
    But when caught, they are treated as humans, with compassion.
    For instance, that 18 year old boy in Paris: I hope to hear that he was coerced into this situation, and never wanted the killings to happen.


  • Hasan
    Jan 8, 2015 - 11:29PM

    When exactly were hundreds of Indians killed in Australia? What strange world do you live in? Please read more truth. Please!!! Your comment is terribly embarrassing! People like yourself should never be given access to either a computer or the internet! Your comments are not only untruths but are very dangerous! Please seek help!!!


  • Jan 8, 2015 - 11:48PM

    Terrorism stems from fanaticism and every sane soul knows that fanaticism has no space in any society. It is this fanatic mindset that drove the terrorists to kill innocent children without remorse in Peshawar and it is with the same mindset terrorist attacked journalists in Paris.

    Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends of the staff members of Charlie Hebrdo and two police officers senselessly killed in the coward attack yesterday. President Obama in his statement after the attack said, “The fact that this was an attack on journalists, attack on our free press, also underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom — of speech and freedom of the press. But the one thing that I’m very confident about is that the value that we share with the French people, a belief — a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few.”

    The few fanatic minds cannot be allowed to hold the world hostage of their ideologies. We stand united together from Peshawar to Paris against senseless violence and killings.

    Abdul Quddus
    DET – U.S. Central Command


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 9, 2015 - 12:25AM

    Wow, you say “hundreds of Indians killed in racist riots in Australia”!!!!
    Too bad you made that statistic up since no such death toll ever occurred in Australia “a few years ago”!!!
    If you even had a brain (unlikely!) then you would know that such obvious lies are easily discovered and make you look like a fool!!!


  • Ali
    Jan 9, 2015 - 1:40AM

    Muslim= Terrorist
    Black= Racism
    White= Mental instability
    Why no one remembers the barbaric act White does across the world.No one talks ab Palestine, Iraq, Syria or Libya. How many times Muslims have invaded any non Muslim country. How many Muslims have been killed by non Muslims around the world any guess??????
    Stop stereotyping around and clean your own back yard.


  • G Indian
    Jan 9, 2015 - 9:40AM

    How many times Muslims have invaded any non Muslim country. Answer: Muslims are incapapable of doing so because they are militarily and technologically backward. They would have done worse it if they could. Muslims changed the demographics and native vibrant culture of whole middle east, Iran, Africa by conquest. Thankfully British rule and Maratha resistance to some extant stopped Islamisation of India. India should celebrate British arrival day in India as Indian independance day.


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