France Marks Three Years Since Charlie Hebdo Attack

French President Emmanuel Macron observes a minute of silence in front of the plaque commemorating late police officer Ahmed Merabet to mark the third anniversary of the attack, in Paris, on January 7, 2018. PHOTO: Christophe Ena / POOL / AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath in front of the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Sunday to mark three years since the massacre of its staff in an Islamist attack.

At a low-key ceremony, in line with requests from the families of the victims for a sober commemoration, Macron was joined by journalists from the magazine, members of his government and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

Two French jihadists who had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda killed 11 people at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in 2015 over the staunchly atheist magazine’s satirical coverage of Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

The assault, which saw a policeman executed at pointblank range nearby, profoundly shocked France.

It also marked the beginning of a series of jihadist attacks that have claimed 241 lives in total according to an AFP toll.

Charlie Hebdo, which prides itself on being provocative, returned to the murder of its famed cartoonists and writers in its latest issue.

“The 7th of January 2015 propelled us into a new world of armed police, secure entrances and reinforced doors, of fear and death,” wrote contributor Fabrice Nicolino in a column last week.

“And this in the heart of Paris and in conditions which do not honour the French republic. Do we still have a laugh? Yes,” he added.

The magazine pays between 1.0-1.5 million euros (1.2-1.8 million dollars) in security costs annually to protect its offices which are at a secret location, its editor Riss wrote.

Sales meanwhile have fallen sharply since a wave of popular support following the bloodshed.

Company revenues fell to 19.4 million euros in 2016, down from more than 60 million in 2015, according to figures first reported by the BFM news channel and confirmed to AFP by the magazine.

Its journalists and editors still regularly receive death threats and the magazine courted fresh controversy in November with a front-page on the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan who has been accused of sexually assaulting women.

The Swiss academic, who is widely read and followed in France, was depicted with a huge erection above the line: “I am the sixth pillar of Islam.”

The magazine also regularly mocks Christian and Jewish leaders as well as politicians of all stripes.

Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, another French extremist took hostages at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris, killing five people before elite police raided the premises and shot him dead.

Anti-terror magistrates investigating the incidents are expected to finalise their probe in the next few months but have been unable to determine how the Charlie Hebdo killers — Cherif and Said Kouchi — coordinated with the supermarket shooter, Amedy Coulibaly.

They have also failed to track the source of the automatic weapons used by the Kouchi brothers for their killing spree.

AFP

Death Toll In Paris Attacks Rises To 129

paris attacksThe number of persons killed in Friday night’s attacks in Paris has risen to 129, Paris prosecutor says.

Eighty persons were reported dead after gunmen burst into the Bataclan Concert Hall and took dozens hostage on Friday night.

But on Saturday, the number of dead persons increased to 129 while at least 352 persons were injured.

At a news conference, Paris prosecutor, Francois Molins, said 99 people are still in critical conditions. He also mentioned that in one of the attacks, gunmen used a black Seat vehicle.

According to him, “three co-ordinated teams” appear to have been behind Friday’s attacks.

“We have to find who these people are, who their accomplices are, who ordered this, where they come from, how they were financed,” Molins stressed.

“A Horror”

The siege to Bataclan Concert Hall ended when security forces stormed the building.

French President, Francois Hollande, visibly shaken, called Friday night’s events “a horror” and vowed to wage a “merciless” fight against terrorism.

Paris saw three days of attacks in early January, when Islamist gunmen murdered 18 people after attacking satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman on patrol.

The attack on the 1,500-seat Bataclan hall was by far the deadliest of Friday night’s attacks. Gunmen opened fire on concert-goers watching US rock group Eagles of Death Metal. The event had been sold out.

Within an hour, security forces had stormed the concert hall and all four attackers there were dead; three had blown themselves up and a fourth was shot dead by police.

People were also shot dead at bars and restaurants at five other sites in Paris.

Police believed all of the gunmen were dead, but it is unclear if any accomplices are still on the run after the string of near-simultaneous attacks.

Paris residents have been asked to stay indoors while about 1,500 military personnel had been deployed across the city.

Also, the government had declared a national state of emergency and nonetheless, tightened its borders.

Texas Police Kill Two Gunmen At US Cartoon Conference

Texas
Reuters/Mike Stone

Texas police have shot dead two gunmen who opened fire on Sunday outside an exhibit of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that was organized by an anti-Islamic group and billed as a free-speech event.

The shooting in a Dallas suburb was an echo of past attacks or threats in other Western countries against art depicting the Prophet Mohammad. In January, gunmen killed 12 people in the Paris offices of French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in revenge for its cartoons.

Sunday’s attack took place at about 7 p.m. in a parking lot of the Curtis Culwell Center, an indoor arena in Garland, northeast of Dallas. Geert Wilders, a polarizing Dutch politician and anti-Islamic campaigner who is on an al Qaeda hit list, was among the speakers at the event.

Police said they had not determined the identity of the two gunmen or whether they were linked to critics of the event who had branded it anti-Islamic.

As a precaution, a police bomb squad was checking the suspects’ car, and the immediate vicinity of the Culwell Center was evacuated, city police spokesman, Joe Harn said.

Investigators were keeping their distance from the bodies of the gunmen, which were close to the car, until the vehicle was deemed clear of explosives, he said later.

Shortly before midnight police alerted media that a strong electronic pulse would be activated near the scene, presumably as part of the bomb squad’s work, and a loud boom was heard moments later, though police did not comment further on what was done.

The exhibit was organized by Pamela Geller, President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). Her organization, which is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, has sponsored anti-Islamic advertising campaigns in transit systems across the country.

Organizers of the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest” said that the event was to promote freedom of expression. They offered a $10,000 prize for the best artwork or cartoon depicting the Prophet, as well as a $2,500 “People’s Choice Award.”

Depictions of the Prophet Mohammad are viewed as offensive in Islam, and Western art that portrays the Prophet has sometimes angered Muslims and provoked threats and attacks from radicals.

Al Qaeda In Yemen Claims Responsibility For Charlie Hebdo Attack

File photo of a policeman standing guard outside the French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo" in ParisAl Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, saying it was ordered by the Islamist militant group’s leadership for insulting Prophet Muhammad.

Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, appeared in an 11-minute video posted on YouTube on Wednesday, saying that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo was in “vengeance for the prophet”.

“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organisation of al Qaeda al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God,” said Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, a leader of the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda (AQAP) in the recording.

He added that the strike was carried out in “implementation” of the order of overall al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who has called for strikes by Muslims in the West using any means they can find.

AQAP was formed in January 2009 as a merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of Al-Qaeda. Washington regards it as the network’s most dangerous branch and has carried out a sustained drone war against its leaders.

“The leadership of (AQAP) was the party that chose the target and plotted and financed the plan… It was following orders by our general chief Ayman al-Zawahiri,” Ansi said.

“The heroes were chosen and they answered the call,” he said

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the recording, which carried the logo of the al Qaeda’s media group al-Malahem.

The first edition of Charlie Hebdo published after last week’s attacks sold out within minutes at newspaper kiosks around France on Wednesday, with people queuing up to buy copies to support the satirical weekly.

The new issue features another cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on its cover, with tears in his eyes, holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign under the headline “All is forgiven”.

AQAP has a record of launching attacks far from its base in Yemen, including a bid to blow up a US airliner over Michigan on Christmas Day in 2009.

The group recently called for its supporters to carry out attacks in France, which is part of a US-led coalition conducting air strikes against fighters from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Charlie Hebdo First Cover Since Terror Attack Shows Prophet Muhammad

charlie-hebdoThe front cover of Wednesday’s edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the first since last week’s attack on its Paris offices that left 12 people dead, is a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.

The cover shows the prophet shedding a tear and holding up a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” in sympathy with the dead journalists. The headline says “All is forgiven”.

Richard Malka was among the first to call for the magazine to continue functioning after nine of its contributors, including famed cartoonists Cabu and Wolinski and its publishing director, Charb, were gunned down last Wednesday by Chérif and Saïd Kouachi

When asked whether that meant more cartoons of Mohammed, which have been a regular feature in the magazine until last Wednesday’s attack, he replied: “Naturally.”

“We will not give in otherwise all this won’t have meant anything,” he told France Info radio on Monday, which broadcast from the magazine’s heavily guarded temporary offices at Libération newspaper.

“Humour without self-deprecation isn’t humour. We mock ourselves, politicians, religions, it’s a state of mind you need to have.”

“The Charlie state of mind is the right to blaspheme,” he went on.

The edition will appear on Wednesday in 16 languages, including Arabic, and will be sold in 25 countries.

Liberation published the Charlie Hebdo cover online late on Monday night, showing a man in a white turban holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie.”

Charlie Hebdo’s past caricatures of the prophet appear to have prompted last week’s attacks, which left a total of 17 people dead.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, told the Today programme that Charlie Hebdo had no choice but to print the cover it had.

“You cannot have a march through the streets of Paris attended by 46 world leaders, 4 million people, climaxing with a shout of ‘We are not afraid’ and then not print the central object of contention,” he said. “Of course they are right to do that and I am afraid it is absolutely vital now that everybody stands up and defends their right to publish. You may not agree with what they have done, you may be offended by what they have done, but you should defend their right to publish it.”

Thousands of people showed their solidarity waving flags of France as well as several other countries, throughout the march which kicked off at central Place de la Republique.

Meanwhile, the partner of one of the slain attackers behind the three-day killing spree in Paris crossed into Syria last week, according to the Turkish foreign minister.

Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, had crossed into Syria on January 8, the same day that her partner Coulibaly is suspected of killing a policewoman outside Paris on the second day of the attacks.

Hollande, World Leaders March Against Extremism

World leadersFrench President, Francois Hollande, flanked by other French and world leaders, on Sunday led thousands of citizens on a solidarity march in honour of the victims who died in terror attacks on Paris.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, European Council President, Donald Tusk, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi and Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga who were all at the forefront of the procession linked arms as they marched.

Commentators said the last time a huge crowd of such size filled the streets of the capital was at the Liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944.

Tight security measures were in place with some 2,200 police and soldiers on patrol in Paris to protect marchers from would-be attackers, with police snipers on rooftops and plain-clothes detectives mingling with the crowd.

Thousands of people showed their solidarity waving flags of France as well as several other countries, throughout the march which kicked off at central Place de la Republique.

After world leaders left the march, Hollande stayed to greet survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attack and their families, while hundreds of thousands of people marched slowly and in near-total silence through Paris streets.

More Troops Deployed In Paris As Hunt For Terror Accomplice Continues

Hayat
Hayat Boumeddiene

The French government has deployed 500 more troops in Paris, to tighten security in the area, following three days of terror which led to the death of 17 people.

According to the Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, the government was taking all necessary measures to protect the country, even as thousands have taken to the streets, in silent marches, to remember the victims.

Also, Police in France are hunting for any accomplices of three gunmen killed by police on Friday after two sieges.

However, President Francois Hollande has warned that danger is not over yet, as the search continues for Hayat Boumeddiene, who was said to be with one of the attackers when a policewoman was killed in Paris on Thursday.

She has been described as “armed and dangerous”.

“We have to be vigilant. I also ask you to be united – it’s our best weapon,” said Mr Hollande in a televised address on Friday night.

Also, France’s chief prosecutor, Francois Molins, has said that 16 people had been detained for questioning, including the wife of one of the Kouachi brothers, who attacked the Charlie Hebdo company.

France Mourns As Manhunt For Suspects In Militant Attack Continues

france attack2French police extended a manhunt on Thursday for two brothers suspected of killing 12 people at a satirical magazine in Paris in a presumed Islamist militant strike that national leaders and allied states described as an assault on democracy.

France began a day of mourning for the journalists and police officers shot dead on Wednesday morning by black-hooded gunmen using Kalashnikov assault rifles. French tricolor flags flew at half mast throughout the country.

Police released photos of the two French nationals still at large, calling them “armed and dangerous”: brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, both of whom were already under watch by security services.

The journal Charlie Hebdo is well known for lampooning Islam and other religions, as well as political figures.

Islamist militants have repeatedly threatened France with attacks over its military strikes on Islamist strongholds in the Middle East and Africa, and the government reinforced its anti-terrorism laws last year.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France faced a terrorist threat “without precedent” and confirmed the two brothers were known to security services. But he added it was too early to say whether authorities had underestimated the threat they posed.

“Because they were known, they had been followed,” he told RTL radio, adding: “We must think of the victims. Today it’s a day of mourning.”

A total of seven people had been arrested since the attack, he said. Police sources said they were mostly acquaintances of the two main suspects. One source said one of the brothers had been identified by his identity card, left in the getaway car.

At Least 11 Killed At Paris Office Of Satirical Newspaper Charlie Hebdo

File photo of a policeman standing guard outside the French satirical weekly "Charlie Hebdo" in ParisBlack-hooded gunmen shot dead and 11 others killed at the Paris office of the Satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, a publication firebombed in the past after publishing cartoons lampooning Muslim leaders and the Prophet Mohammad, police said.

Witnesses spoke of sustained gunfire at the office as the attackers opened fire with assault rifles before escaping.

President Francois Hollande headed to the scene of the attack and the government said it was raising France’s security level to the highest notch.

“This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about it,” Hollande told reporters.

Another 10 people were injured in the incident and police union official Rocco Contento described the scene inside the offices as “carnage”.

“About a half an hour ago two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs (rifles),” witness Benoit Bringer told the TV station.

“A few minutes later we heard lots of shots,” he said, adding that the men were then seen fleeing the building.

Charlie’s latest tweet was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The Satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs.

The magazine was fire-bombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said in a tweet: “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”

Anti-Muslim video ignites violence in Pakistan, 6 killed

Muslim protest against insults to the Prophet Mohammad turned violent in Pakistan, where six people were killed on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, but remained mostly peaceful in Islamic countries elsewhere.

In France, where the publication of cartoons denigrating the Prophet stoked anger over an anti-Islam video made in California, the authorities banned all protests over the issue.

“There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up,” said Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government also banned protests against the images published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Four people were killed and almost 30 wounded last week when the U.S. embassy was stormed in a protest over the film.

Many Western and Muslim politicians and clerics have appealed for calm, denouncing those behind the mockery of the Prophet, but also condemning violent reactions to it.

At street level, Muslims enraged by attacks on their faith spoke of a culture war with those in the West who put rights to freedom of expression above any religious offence caused.

“They hate him (the Prophet Mohammad) and show this through their continued works in the West, through their writings, cartoons, films and the way they launch war against him in schools,” said Abdessalam Abdullah, a preacher at a mosque in Beirut’s Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh.

Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet blasphemous.

REUTERS