International

‘It was carnage, absolute butchery’

Masked gunmen who stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday target a policeman outside the office as they get away. The image ofthe policeman, on the ground, has been blurred.

Masked gunmen who stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday target a policeman outside the office as they get away. The image ofthe policeman, on the ground, has been blurred.  

Gunmen unleash heavy gunfire after asking for Charlie Hebdo office

A huge manhunt is under way in Paris after three masked and hooded gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher stormed the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Wednesday morning, killing 12 people — including two policemen — before escaping in a hijacked car.

Visiting the scene of the country’s worst atrocity in decades, French President Francois Hollande said the assault, which happened at around 11.30 am after the magazine’s staff had gathered for their weekly editorial meeting, was “an act of exceptional barbarism”.

The attack comes amid mounting tension about immigration in France and what many see as rising Islamic influence in society.

Cherlie Hebdo’s cover story this week featured Michel Houellebecq, the controversial author whose latest book Soumission, or Submission, portrays France in 2022 run by a Muslim President, according to the laws of conservative Islam.

The Islamic State (IS) has previously warned it intends to attack France and moments before its offices were attacked, the magazine’s Twitter handle published a cartoon wishing a Happy New Year “and particularly good health” to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The magazine has itself frequently been criticised — and prosecuted under anti-racism laws — for publishing cartoons of Peophet Mohamad.

“We heard shouting in the street,” Benoit Bringer, who works at a press agency on the same floor as the magazine’s offices, told France Info radio. “We saw hooded men carrying Kalashnikovs entering the building. We called the police. After a few minutes we heard heavy firing — a lot of firing, a hell of a lot. We went upstairs to take shelter on the roof. Then after about 10 minutes we saw two armed men come out onto the street. There was more shouting, more firing.

“Three policemen had arrived on bikes but had to leave because the men were armed, obviously… Then the attackers took off in a car.”

Another, unnamed witness from an office across the corridor said she and her colleagues had heard “a huge boom. Then someone opened the door to our office and asked where Charlie Hebdo was. He had a rifle. We backed away. Afterwards he left, we heard gunfire. We went to the windows, there were two men running with guns, speaking in bad French… They were shouting outside, and shooting again. Afterwards I saw someone leaving the building with his hands covered in blood.”

Television footage showed the surrounding streets jammed with police and emergency service vehicles, while tweeted pictures from people at the scene showed police cars riddled with bullets and people being carried away on stretchers.

A police spokesman, Rocco Contente, said the men “appeared to have opened fire on everyone. It was carnage, absolute butchery. The men emerged soon after… There was a shootout with colleagues from the police. The attackers took off towards the Porte de Pantin in a car they hijacked from a motorist.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2015

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:54:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/it-was-carnage-absolute-butchery/article6764674.ece

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