Twelve people are reportedly dead, with others wounded, after two gunmen stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday.
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Early reports indicate that ten magazine staffers and two police officers who responded to the scene were among those killed.
After the assault, according to Channel 24 News in France, the "attackers fled the building and their whereabouts are currently unknown."
The Associated Press reports:
France raised its security alert to the highest level and reinforced security at houses of worship, stores, media offices and transportation. Top government officials were holding an emergency meeting and President Hollande planned a nationally televised address in the evening.
A witness who works nearby, Benoit Bringer, told the iTele network he saw multiple masked men armed with automatic weapons at the newspaper's office in central Paris. The attackers went to the second floor and started firing indiscriminately in the newsroom, said Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders.
"This is the darkest day of the history of the French press," he said.
Luc Poignant, an official of the SBP police union, said the attackers left in a waiting car and later switched to another vehicle that had been stolen.
Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre confirmed that 12 people were killed in the attack.
Video images on the website of public broadcaster France Televisions showed two gunmen in black at a crossroads who appeared to fire down one of the streets. A cry of "Allahu akbar!" — Arabic for "God is great"— could be heard among the gunshots.
Tracking developments, the Guardian newspaper is offering live updates and provided this summary of events at approximately 8 AM EST:
- An unknown number of gunmen entered the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo this morning and opened fire.
- So far, 12 people have been confirmed dead – 10 Charlie Hebdo staff and two police officers. Five others are seriously wounded.
- The attackers fled the scene and later hijacked a car. They have not been caught.
- The terror alert in Paris have been raised to its highest level.
- French president François Hollande said the country was in shock following what he said was a terrorist attack.
- Charlie Hebdo magazine had been the subject of violent attacks in the past, following its publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Its offices were firebombed in 2011, and recent threats had also been made against it and other media groups.
As CNN points out, the magazine has been at the center of controversy for years:
The Paris-based weekly satirical magazine became famous for its daring takedowns of politicians, public figures and religious symbols. And while the motive behind Wednesday's massacre is not yet clear, Charlie Hebdo's cartoons mocking Islamic extremism have angered some Muslims in recent years and made it a target for attacks.
The magazine's most recent tweet on Wednesday was a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, the terror group which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq in recent months.
In November 2011 the magazine released an issue depicting a bearded and turbaned cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed with a bubble saying, "100 lashes if you're not dying of laughter." Its offices were burned to the ground by a Molotov cocktail the same day.
Police surveillance had reportedly been fairly tight around the magazine's offices until recently -- and there had been 24-hour surveillance before that, according to CNN's Jim Bittermann in Paris.
The magazine, which was founded in 1970, has insisted in the past that its goal has never been to provoke anger or violence.
"The aim is to laugh," Charlie Hebdo journalist Laurent Leger told BFM-TV in 2012. "We want to laugh at the extremists -- every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept."
"You don't throw bombs, you discuss, you debate. But you don't act violently. We have to stand and resist pressure from extremism."