Widespread protests after Charlie Hebdo shooting

08 January 2015

AS politicians and religious leaders across Europe and the world expressed their shock at the attack on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, police brought two hostage sieges involving suspects linked to the massacre to an end.

Two men, named by the French authorities as brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, were chased across Paris following the shooting on Wednesday and were cornered inside an industrial estate in the commuter town of Dammartin-en-Goële, north-east of the capital. They took one person hostage. 

On Friday afternoon around 6 p.m. local time police stormed the building, which ended in the deaths of both brothers. Some reports said that the hostage they had taken had been freed alive by the police action, but this had not been officially confirmed.

Separately, another man attacked a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris and also took hostages. Shots were fired, and the AFP agency is reporting two people may have been killed. The gunman was believed to also be responsible for shooting dead a policewoman yesterday in Montrouge, south of the city centre.

Minutes after the security forces stormed the industrial estate, armed police rushed into the supermarket. The gunman was killed but the fate of the hostages was unclear. Unconfirmed reports by French media and news agencies suggested some of the civilians inside the shop may have died. 

Jewish businesses in the area had been told to close and schools and businesses close to the supermarket are being evacuated by the police.

Responding to the latest developments, the president of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that Israeli embassies tighten their security. In a statement earlier on Friday, he said: "My message, in Paris, in Jerusalem, anywhere: first rule in fighting terrorism is to refuse to be afraid." His foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman said that the attacks were not just against the French or French Jews but against "the entire free world".

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The British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis said on Twitter that he was hoping "this Shabbat [will] see a peaceful end to the dramas unfolding in Paris". On Wednesday, he has issued a statement saying he had found cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo offensive, but this did not diminish his "outrage" at the atrocity.

The President of France, Francois Hollande, speaking outside the offices shortly after the attack, said: "This is an act of exceptional barbarism. Nobody in France should think that they can behave against the principle of the Republic and harm the spirit of the Republic, embodied by a newspaper."

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, described the victims as "martyrs of liberty". On Wednesday evening tens of thousands of Parisians gathered in the city's Place de la Republique in protest against the killings. Many carried candles or posters which declared "Je suis Charlie". Other vigils were held across France and around the world, including in London's Trafalgar Square.

President Hollande has organised a rally in Paris on Sunday to demonstrate "national unity". David Cameron has said he has accepted an invitation to attend the demonstration, writing on Twitter that he wanted to celebrate the values behind Charlie Hebdo.

The Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement on Wednesday evening, in both French and English, urging the French to come together after the "vile attack".

"This is an act of the most extraordinary brutality and barbarity. This violence is demonic in its attack on the innocent, and cowardly in its denial of the basic human right of freedom of speech. 

"The people of France, a country in which I have lived, which I know and love, will rise courageously above the challenge of this vile attack and continue to demonstrate strength and confidence arising out of their great history," he said.

"Our prayers and thoughts are especially with those who have been killed and injured and their families. I pray also for those involved in pursuing the terrorists."

The Queen wrote to President Hollande: "Prince Philip and I send our sincere condolences to the families of those who have been killed and to those who have been injured in the attack in Paris. . . We send our thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected."

On Twitter, David Cameron wrote: "The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press."

Witnesses have told news agencies that they heard the men say: "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad". In one amateur video of the attack they can be heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest" in Arabic).

Charlie Hebdo has frequently poked fun at Islamist extremists, and was firebombed in 2011 after it printed a caricature of Muhammad. The last tweet sent before the attack was a cartoon of the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The French authorities ordered extra security for places of worship, newspapers, and shopping centres in the aftermath of the attack. France's terror alert was raised to its highest level, and soldiers were deployed on the streets in Paris in public spaces.

The American Cathedral in Paris was closed after the announcement that France had been put on its highest terror alert. The Dean, the Very Revd Lucinda Laird, wrote on the cathedral's website: "We are all in shock and grief follow­ing today's brutal shootings at Charlie Hebdo. I do want you to know that everything is normal here at the Cathedral, although we are of course on the alert."

The presiding Bishop of the Convocation of Episocopal Churches in Europe, the Rt Revd Pierre Whalon, said in a statement on Thursday that the terrorists had been trying to divide people, but had failed.

"Certainly, Charlie Hebdo is adept at satirizing religion, including my own. This is their right. Freedom of expression is the only guarantor of liberty, including the freedom of worship, however."

Bishop Whalon also praised Muslim leaders who had been quick to condemn the attack. "Among them was Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, whom I have known and admired for many years. I join with him in deploring this ungodly attack 'unworthy of Islam', and echo his call not to confuse Muslims with the 'criminals' who perpetrated this vile act." He ended his statement with an expression of solidarity with the satirical magazine: "We are all Charlie".

Speaking to the Reuters news agency at the scene of the attack Mr Chalghoumi said of the gunmen: "We must be firm with them, because they want terror, they want racism, they want to pit people against each other."

A group of French imams were attending Pope Francis's general audience in St Peter's Square, Rome, on the morning of the attack. The Daily Telegraph reported that the imams called the tragedy "a vile attack, criminal and unpardonable". A Vatican spokesman, Fr Ciro Benedettini, described it as a "double act of violence: abominable, because it is both an attack against people as well as against freedom of the press".

Speaking shortly after the attack, the Chaplain of St George's, Paris, the Revd Matthew Harrison, said that he hoped that the French would not fall into the trap of blaming peaceful Muslims.

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"These people are terrorists; so the first danger is the danger of fear. They get their ends, which is to put fear and terror into people. There is also, maybe, a risk of increasing that situation [of demonising Islam].

"These people weren't just attack­ing journalists: there will be many other people they want to attack as well ­- maybe even Western society as a whole. But most of the people killed by extremist Islamic violence are fellow Muslims. We have got to remember that."

A spokesman for the RC Bishops' Conference of France, Mgr Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, said that "nothing can justify" the shooting.

Manchester Cathedral has set up a special prayer station to remember the 12 who were killed in the attack. 

A statement from the European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) condemned the atrocity as "an attack on humanity itself." "ECRL condemn without reservation this extreme violent act, especially if the perpetrators claim to be protecting the honour of their religion or their religious values," it continued.

The editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop, said on Wednesday that he was appalled and shocked. "I offer my condolences to the families and friends of those killed - the cartoonists, journalists and those who were trying to protect them. They paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty. Very little seems funny today."

Speaking in 2012, one of the magazine's journalists, Laurent Leger, said: "The aim is to laugh. We want to laugh at the extremists - every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept."

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