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Arrests as France hunts gunmen

Police in France have made seven arrests as they hunt for two named suspects over the deadly attack in Paris on staff at a satirical magazine.

The seven, thought to be associates or family of the suspects, were detained in the towns of Reims and Charleville-Mezieres, as well as in the Paris area.

Photos were released of two brothers suspected of involvement in the attack.

France is mourning the 12 people killed when Charlie Hebdo was targeted by gunmen shouting Islamist slogans.

A minute’s silence will be observed at midday across the country and the bells of Notre Dame in the capital will toll.

Arrest warrants were issued for Cherif and Said Kouachi, said to be “armed and dangerous”. A third suspect has surrendered.

Cherif Kouachi was sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison for belonging to a Paris-based group sending jihadist fighters to Iraq.

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Those killed (from left) include economist Bernard Maris, prominent cartoonists Wolinski and Cabu, Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier and cartoonist Bernard Verlhac
  • Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47, who had been living under police protection since receiving death threats
  • Cartoonists Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Philippe Honore, 73
  • Economist and regular magazine columnist Bernard Maris, 68, known to readers as Uncle Bernard
  • Mustapha Ourrad, proof-reader
  • lsa Cayat, psychoanalyst and columnist, the only woman killed
  • Michel Renaud, who was visiting from the city of Clermont-Ferrand
  • Frederic Boisseau, 42, caretaker, who was in the reception area at the time of the attack
  • Police officers Franck Brinsolaro, who acted as Charb’s bodyguard, and Ahmed Merabet, 42, who was shot dead while on the ground

Vigils

Paris has been placed on the highest terror alert and extra troops have been deployed to guard media offices, places of worship, transport and other sensitive areas.

Vigils have been held in Paris and in cities across the world in tribute to those killed in Wednesday’s attack. Many carried placards reading “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) in solidarity with the victims.

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There was a huge police operation in Reims overnight but officials gave no details

Eight journalists – including the magazine’s editor – died along with two policemen, a caretaker and a visitor when masked men armed with assault rifles stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices.

The magazine has angered some Muslims in the past by printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The offices were firebombed in 2011.

The gunmen were heard shouting “we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic.

French media, citing police documents, initially named a third suspect as Hamyd Mourad, 18, who later handed himself in to police. He reportedly surrendered after hearing his name on the news.

President Hollande has described the dead as heroes, as Gavin Hewitt reports.

France ‘targeted’

President Francois Hollande said the country’s tradition of free speech had been attacked and called on all French people to stand together.

In a sombre televised address late on Wednesday he said: “Today the French Republic as a whole was the target.”

Thursday’s national day of mourning is only the fifth held in France in the past 50 years.

The attack took place as the magazine was holding its weekly editorial meeting. In addition to the dead, 11 people were wounded, some seriously.

Corinne Rey, a cartoonist, said the gunmen had entered the building after forcing her to enter the code to open the door.

“They said they belonged to al-Qaeda,” she said, adding they had spoken in fluent French.

Witnesses said they heard as many as 50 shots fired both inside the Charlie Hebdo office and on the streets outside.

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This vigil in New York echoed the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) in tribute to the victims

The gunmen were filmed on amateur video shooting one injured police officer at point blank range in the head on the pavement outside.

The attackers fled to northern Paris before abandoning their car and hijacking a second one, police say.

World leaders swiftly condemned the attack with US President Barack Obama offering to help France track down those responsible.

Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Sunni Islam’s leading centre of learning, called the attack “criminal” and said Islam denounced “any violence”.

The Arab League also condemned the attack. Pope Francis called it “abominable”.

Thousands of people gathered at the Place de la Republique in central Paris for a vigil, many holding up placards saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), in solidarity with the victims.

Piles of pens – symbolising freedom of expression – and candles were laid across the square.

Similar scenes were repeated at vigils across France and in cities around the world.

 

Source: BBC

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