Paris was put on the highest terrorist alert after at least 11 people were killed in shootings at the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in eastern Paris.
Four more people are in a critical state and an additional 20 have been injured, police said.
“France is in a state of shock after this terrorist attack,” French President Francois Hollande said. “An act of exceptional barbarity has been perpetrated against a newspaper, against liberty of expression, against journalists”
The attackers are on the run, he said. He said all potential terrorist targets have been put under the highest protection, adding that several possible attacks have been foiled in recent weeks.
Most of the victims were part of the magazine’s newsroom, Matthieu Lamarre, a spokesman for the Paris Mayor’s office, said. At least one of the dead is a police officer, he said.
Witnesses were cited by Europe 1 radio and Agence France- Presse as saying that two hooded people entered the offices of the magazine, shooting at random. Several journalists fled to the roof, I-tele television reported.
Charlie Hebdo’s cover this week is on “Submission,” a book by Michel Houellebecq released today, which is sparking controversy with its depiction of a fictional France of the future led by an Islamic party and a Muslim president who bans women from the workplace.
Also today, the magazine on its Twitter account posted a cartoon depicting Islamic State Chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed in November 2011 after it published a special edition featuring the Prophet Mohammed as a “guest editor.” The fire caused no injuries.
The newspaper is owned by Les Editions Rotatives, a holding controlled by some of its reporters, and managers. Shareholders include cartoonist Cabu.
In his sixth novel, Houellebecq plays on fears that western societies are being inundated by the influence of Islam, a worry that this month drew thousands in anti-Islamist protests in Germany. In the novel, Houellebecq has the imaginary “Muslim Fraternity” party winning a presidential election in France against the nationalist, anti-immigration National Front.
Houellebecq’s book is set in France in 2022. It has the fictional Muslim Fraternity’s chief, Mohammed Ben Abbes, beating Le Pen, with Socialists, centrists, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party rallying behind him to block the National Front.
Ben Abbes goes on to ban women in the workplace, advocates polygamy, pushes Islamic schools on the masses and imposes a conservative and religious vision of society. The French widely accept the new environment, hence the book’s title.
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