Heavily armed gunmen attacked the Paris office of a French satirical magazine Wednesday morning, killing 12 people, including two police officers, and injuring at least 20 others, some critically, according to the Associated Press. A police spokesman says three hooded men entered the building and opened fire using Kalashnikov rifles, shotguns, and, according to witnesses, a rocket launcher. The assailants escaped in a getaway car, fled east and abandoned the car, before hijacking another and disappearing, according to a Reuters report. Speaking to French media following the shooting, President Francois Hollande described the incident as "undoubtedly a terrorist attack," adding that France has raised its terror alert to its highest level for the greater Paris area.
One suspect, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, was arrested early Thursday after turning himself into police at Charleville-Mézières, about 145 miles northeast of Paris. Authorities say he drove the getaway car and reportedly turned himself in after hearing his name on the news. The other two, Said and Chérif Kouachi, 34 and 32, remain at large. French police arrested seven other people connected to the attack early Thursday, though their names have not yet been released. The Kouachi brothers were born in Paris and were on the radar of French intelligence. Chérif was arrested in 2008 after attempting to go to Iraq to fight for al Qaeda. He was sentenced to three years in prison and released.
The magazine, Charlie Hebdo, sparked controversy on several occasions for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Its offices were destroyed by a firebomb in 2011 after the magazine named the prophet as its editor-in-chief and featured a caricature of Mohammed on its cover. The last tweet published to Charlie Hebdo's Twitter account included a cartoon drawing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the purported leader of ISIS, though it is not yet clear whether the attacks are linked to the magazine's treatment of Islam or ISIS. The magazine's offices had been under police protection for years due to threats it received.
World leaders denounce attack on the media
Hollande and other world leaders have condemned the incident as an attack on the media, with British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeting that the UK stands strong with France in "defending the freedom of the press." The White House later condemned it in "the strongest possible terms."
This week's issue of Charlie Hebdo, released today, features a cover story on French author Michel Houellebecq, whose latest book describes a future Europe that is dominated by Islam. Some have criticized the book for stoking anti-Islam sentiment at a time when fears of ISIS- or al Qaeda-linked attacks were already running high in France. Video from France TV Info show one of the gunmen shouting "God is great" in Arabic and proclaiming that they have "avenged the prophet."
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images
Thousands gathered Wednesday evening for an impromptu memorial at the Place de la République in Paris, not far from the site of the massacre. Many held signs reading "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie"), which has become a slogan of solidarity on social media and across the world. In a televised address Wednesday night, President Hollande declared a national day of mourning that will be observed with a minute of silence at midday Thursday across France.
Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier, Charlie Hebdo's editor-in-chief and the cartoonist who drew the Mohammed cartoons, was named in Al Qaeda's most wanted list in 2013. The headline on his latest cartoon chillingly notes that there still haven't been any terrorist attacks in France. Below, a caricature of an Islamic militant replies, "Wait, we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes." Charb was among those killed in today's attack, along with some of France's most celebrated cartoonists.
Updated at 3:49 AM ET with further details.