Terrorists Attack on French Newspaper
Clay Dubberly, Editor-In-Chief
Jan. 21, 2015
Wednesday Jan. 7, two terrorists armed with Kalashnikov rifles, donning black garbs with their faces covered exited a car in front of Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris, and opened fire.
They entered number six, Rue Nicolas-Appert, before realizing they had the wrong building. They made their way to number 10, with the newspapers’ offices on the second floor.
They murdered caretaker Frederic Boisseau as they proceeded to the second floor newsroom where the staff was having a lunchtime editorial meeting. Before they killed anyone, they called out their names. They murdered all 10 people attending the staff meeting, including editor Stephane Charbonnier as well as the policeman, Franck Brinsolaro, who was serving as their bodyguard.
They heard shouting “We have avenged the prophet Muhammad” and “Allahu akbar!” which translates to “God is great” in Arabic as they called out the names of papers’ staff members.
Police showed up as the terrorists exited the building. One of the police cars blocked the gunmen’s escape route. A gunfight ensued.
The gunmen sped south down the Boulevard Richard Lenoir, then stopped their vehicle and shot police officer Ahmed Merabet, wounding him. One of the assailants was captured on video walking up to Merabet and shooting him at close range.
The gunmen then drove away before crashing their vehicle 1.8 miles north of the newspapers’ offices. A petrol bomb, otherwise known as a Molotov cocktail, was found in the back of the vehicle along with two jihadist flags.
The attackers hijacked another vehicle and vanished. Paris was put on maximum alert as a manhunt ensued.
The next day, a lone gunman shot two people in Montrouge, a southern Paris suburb. The attacker killed a policewoman and left one man injured before fleeing. The attack was shown later to be connected with the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Later that day, the fugitives robbed a gas station in the Aisne region of Paris. The men, armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, were witnessed firing shots as they took food and gas from the station.
The two fugitives were brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34. Police had sent out warrants for their arrests, listing them as armed and dangerous.
Cherif was a convicted Islamist jailed in 2008, and French police were aware that he was an active militant.
On Friday morning, Jan. 9, Said was shot in the neck during a shootout with police in the town of Montagny Sainte Felicite. The brothers escaped in their vehicles and holed up at a print firm in Dammartin-en-Goele.
Helicopters, snipers and military equipment were deployed to the scene. After an eight-hour standoff, the terrorists emerged from the building, spraying their weapons and injuring two cops. The assailants were gunned down on the spot.
Meanwhile in Paris, another siege was taking place. An armed attacker took several hostages at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris after a shootout. The man, identified as Coulibaly, 32, was threatening to execute hostages if the Kouachi brothers were not allowed to go free.
Minutes after the brothers were killed, commandos advanced on the supermarket as explosions went off — flashbangs and smoke grenades — and the assailant was killed as he knelt for evening prayer.
Fifteen hostages were freed, but the bodies of four hostages were found in the supermarket.
One female terrorist, thought to have killed one of the police officers, Hayat Boumeddiene, is still on the loose. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Boumeddiene is believed to have fled France from Syria to Turkey.
In all, 12 people were killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks: two police officers, eight journalists, a caretaker and a visitor. Four hostages were killed in the associated attack on the Parisian supermarket, and a jogger was also killed before the newspaper attack began.
The editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, once said, “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”
France has responded to the attacks, which were ordered by Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch, with resilience.
Charlie Hebdo has since published a “survivor” edition, depicting a tearful Mohammad holding a sign which reads “Je Suis Charlie,” “I am Charlie,” under the words “All is forgiven.”
The Sunday following the attack, a massive march took place, with an estimate of around two million or more people standing against terrorism and with freedom of speech. They marched with “Je Suis Charlie” signs and French flags.
According to officials, it was the largest demonstration in French history. Handmade signs read “No fear” and “Not afraid.”
The French Ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, said the threat of more terrorist attacks is “very likely.”
“We have to consider the threat that we are facing. You have in Europe thousands of young radicals — thousands of them — and of course, we are democracies, and you don’t arrest somebody because of his ideas,” he said.
President Barack Obama’s administration failed to send a high-level official to the march, which has drawn the attention of many media outlets. U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley attended the march.
“I think it’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
However, the French were staunch to criticize Obama for not attending the march and instead were “overwhelmed and very moved” by America’s response to the crisis. French ambassador Gerard Araud said, “From the French side, there is absolutely no hard feelings.”
Since the attacks, a fund has been set up at jaidecharlie.fr (“I help Charlie”), and donations have been pouring in.
Gerard Biard, one of the papers’ top editors, who was on vacation the day of the shooting, said, “They killed people who drew cartoon characters. That’s it. That’s all these guys do. If they’re afraid of that, what’s their god?”
Charlie Hebdo is keeping the memories of their staff workers alive by publishing their past works. The paper ran drawings by the five cartoonists killed: Stéphane Charbonnier, Jean Cabut, Bernard Verlhac, Georges Wolinski and Philippe Honoré.
“In this edition, they didn’t kill anyone.” Mr. Briard said. The staff members will “appear as they always did.”
Some staff members thought it might be a joke when the gunmen arrived. After years of threats, “Charb,” the editor of the paper, had made a joke of the jihadist cry, “Allahu Akbar,” said Charlie Hebdo Reporter Zineb El Rhazoui, 32.
She said, “It was like his war cry: ‘Allahu akbar this.’ ‘Allahu akbar that.’ We joked with him that he needed to stop using the phrase because the day the assassins actually come to kill us, we won’t know if it’s them screaming this phrase or Charb.”
Ms. Rhazoui said, “The only thing sacred is free expression.” In 2005, Charlie Hebdo was sued for running cartoons of Mohammad. They won the suit. In 2011, the offices were firebombed after airing an edition that read “100 lashes if you’re not dead of laughter.”
Ever since, Charlie Hebdo runs a tag on the front of its paper that reads “irresponsible publication,” a jab at the critics that said they had asked for it.