14YMEDIO, Madrid, 7 January 2015 — The three presumed perpetrators of the attack against the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that claimed the lives of twelve people this Wednesday have already been identified, according to several French media outlets. The attack left at least 10 wounded and 12 dead, eight of whom were journalists. Among them are the editor of the publication, Stephane Charbonnier Charb, and another three long-time cartoonists, Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, besides two police officers. The chief editor of the weekly, Gerard Biard, was in London, which saved him from the attack.
The daily Metronews website explains that the suspects are three men aged 34, 32 and 18 with histories of cooperating with jihadist networks. According to this outlet, they would be brothers Said K. and Cherif K. of French nationality, while the younger would answer to the name of Hamyd M., but his nationality is unknown. The latter was enrolled last year in secondary school in Reims (northern France), according to these reports, which have not been officially confirmed.
Cherif K. was tried in 2005 for being part of a cell sending jihadists to Iraq that would have recruited some dozen youths to go to combat in Iraq between 2003 and 2005. He was then sentenced to three years in prison, half of that suspended.
For its part, the weekly Le Point says that the three suspects were identified by an identity card found in the vehicle in which they fled the location of the events and in which they collided with another car in the northeast of Paris.
The French government has raised to maximum level the antiterrorist alert and has mobilized more than 3,000 members of the security forces in the operation to search for and capture the perpetrators of the attack.
Thousands of people have gathered in the emblematic Parisian Plaza of the Republic, in absolute silence, to protest against the terrorist massacre. The protestors have responded to spontaneous calls made through social networks, and many of them carried signs with the legend: “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”).
Several witnesses have told French television station iTele that three men dressed in black and wearing hoods entered the headquarters of the weekly armed with Kalashnikovs and shot at the people present in the editorial office. One of the Charlie Hebdo journalists has explained to the chain that many shots were heard inside the building.
French President Francois Hollande went quickly to the magazine’s headquarters, located in Paris’s District 11, where he has confirmed the number of victims and has announced that four of the wounded are in serious condition. “France is in shock,” said the president who has classified the attack as “extraordinary barbarity.” “We must demonstrate that we are a united country. I am going to act with firmness in the coming days and weeks,” said Hollande who has declared the highest antiterrorist alert level. Classes have been suspended.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has shown solidarity in statements from London. “We are with the French people in the fight against terror and in defense of freedom of expression,” he declared. His vice minister, Nick Clegg, also has condemned the attack and stressed that it is an act against press freedom.
Solidarity with France has come from other points. Both the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the White House, as well as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have expressed their condolences to Francois Hollande. “It is an intolerable act, a barbarity that concerns us all as human beings and as Europeans,” the European Commission has said through a statement by its president Jean-Claude Juncker. US President Barack Obama has offered assistance to France to bring the guilty “terrorists” to justice.
Charlie Hebdo has received threats for having published caricatures of Mohammed. The journalist Vincent Justin, who worked in an office next to the weekly’s headquarter, has assured the EFE agency that the parties responsible for the shooting justified the action with the sentence: “We are going to avenge the prophet.”
French Muslim leaders already have demonstrated their rejection of the attack. The rector of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, has classified the attack as a “declaration of war” and has bluntly condemned the shooting. The imam of Paris said that “the cartoons have to be responded to as cartoons,” while the imam of Drancy (in Seine-Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris) has characterized the Charlie Hebdo journalists as “martyrs of liberty:” “Their prophet is not Mohammed, it is Satan,” he added.
In 2011 the headquarters of the magazine suffered an attack with a Molotov cocktail that caused a fire and widespread damage. That attack was carried out a day after the publication of an edition entitled Sharia Hebdo, dedicated to the Islamist advance in Tunisia and Libya, which portrayed Mohammed as the chief editor of the caricature edition.
Translated by MLK