January 7, 2015, 3:36pm
Terror attack at Paris magazine office kills 12
At least 12 people are dead after three hooded gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs attacked the headquarters of a French satirical magazine and opened fire on journalists and police guards.
The three men - described by a police union spokesman as “commandos” – are on the run after walking into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris’s 11th arrondissement at about midday on Wednesday and fleeing in a getaway car driven by a fourth.
The death toll includes 10 journalists and two police officers. At least five people are seriously injured.
Rocco Contento, a spokesman for the Unité police union, said “it was a real butchery” in the building. He said the Charlie Hebdo offices were guarded and protection was increased in recent weeks because of fresh threats against the magazine, but the attackers had entered the building intending to kill.
Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in 2011 after a spoof issue featuring a caricature of the prophet Mohammed on its cover.
Contento said the attackers had got into a getaway car driven by a fourth man on fleeing the building, and drove to Porte de Pantin in north-east Paris, where they abandoned the first car and hijacked a second – turning the driver out into the road.
The French president, François Hollande, headed to the scene of the attack and the government said it was raising the security level to the highest level. “This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about it,” he told reporters. Newspaper offices, shopping centres, museums and stations have been placed under police protection.
Witnesses working in the building opposite heard shots as the attack began and saw a police officer “between life and death” lying on the road outside.
Streets were closed off around the building in the aftermath of the shooting and a few hundred metres away on the Boulevard Richard-Lenoir a police car’s windscreen was riddled with bullet holes.
In 2008, Charlie Hebdo was criticised for running Danish cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine defended the publication in the name of freedom of expression.
Kim Willsher for the Guardian