Decoding the Charlie Hebdo shooting

Posted at 5:14 PM, Jan 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-09 11:55:30-05

This post was updated at 11:55 am 1/9/15

Here is what we know so far. We’ll be updating the information as the situation develops:

What Happened?

According to multiple news sources, the two suspects named by police in the Charlie Hebdo shootings Wednesday have been killed.

The deaths come after two separate hostage situations unfolded in Paris Friday.

One event involved two of the suspected shooters from Wednesday's rampage, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, 32 and 34,outside Paris near the Charles de Gaulle airport.

The other on-going situation involves a hostage situation that occurred suddenly at a popular Kosher market to the north of Paris. Mixed reports say that two people have been killed in the market hostage situation and at least five additional hostages have been taken.

 French authorities released the identity of the hostage taker, Amedy Coulibaly, 32, who they believe may be responsible for the death of a female officer that occurred Thursday south of the city. According to police, Coulibaly was the friend and associate of the two gunmen. A senior Parisian police official told the New York Times that Coulibaly is demanding police to release the Kouachi brothers-- a sign they believe furthers the link between the three men.

Hooded, armed gunman killed 12 people in the morning hours Wednesday after they barged into the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France setting off three days of events that have yet to come to a conclusion.

So far 15 people have been killed in events French authorities say are linked to the gunmen. Twelve of the killings stemmed from the first day's rampage, one death of a female police officer happened Thursday and two more deaths Friday during a hostage shoot out at a Kosher store north of Paris, which is still on going.

The act is being viewed as retribution for Charlie Hebdo's controversial, political cartoon covers--many of which have featured the Muslim profit Mohammed, a depiction that goes against the Islamic faith. A video of the assailants captured outside the building shows one shouting “Allahu Akbar!,” Arabic for “God is Great”—leading many to believe the shootings were religiously motivated.

 So far no official group has taken credit for the shootings, although supporters of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups have expressed support for the effort across multiple internet sites. 

What Happened?

At least two gunmen entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo, around 11:30 AM Paris time, according to French government officials. The first person killed was a police officer stationed at an entrance to the magazine. Carrying automatic weapons and wearing military style uniforms the shooters then ascended to the second floor into the newsroom and opened fire on an editorial meeting of 10 people. Survivors present told reporters that the gunmen asked for people by name before they shot them. Four of those killed were the magazine’s founding cartoonists. The gunmen then fled the building and shot and killed a police officer they encountered on the street. They then got into a car they had parked nearby and drove away. 

Officers spent the majority of Thursday following leads to the whereabouts to the suspects. 

Events exploded Friday as two twin hostage situations occurred. One in what is believed to be an industrial park near Charles de Gaulle airport--where the two gunmen are supposedly baricaded--and the other at a Kosher market where a new suspect has taken many hostages. Mixed reports say two hostages have died.

What is Charlie Hebdo?

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly magazine. Its content has been known to spark controversy, especially its political cartoon covers that frequently criticized aspects of Islamic culture. The liberal leaning magazine dates back to 1969 and its staff members have faced life-threatening attacks in the past. A firebomb attack demolished its old headquarters in November 2011 after the magazine put an image of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover, according to Reuters.

What do we know about the attackers?

Paris officials have stood firm that there were three attackers on Wednesday, at least two involved in the shooting at Charlie Hebdo.Amateur videos taken at the scene of the shooting showed the men referring to the prophet Mohammad in French and captured at least one attacker exclaiming “Allahu Akbar” or God is Great. A cartoonist at the Charlie Hebdo offices at the time of the shooting told French newspaper Le Monde that the gunmen spoke perfect French and identified as part of Al Queda. They clashed with police upon leaving the offices and killed one wounded police officer point blank before getting into a car. Reports say they headed north to the right bank of Paris.

One of the suspects originally identified, an 18-year-old male, turned himself into police late Wednesday and said he was not involved. Reuters reportsthat the man was a brother-in-law of the two other suspects and says he was in school at the time of the attack.  

The elder of the two brothers, Said Kouachi traveled to Yemen in 2011 and received terrorist training from Al Qaeda American officials told the New York Times.  Chérif Kouachi, 32, was said to have been detained and later arrested in 2008 for involvement in a Paris terrorist cell that was recruiting French citizens to fight abroad in Iraq. 

Has this happened before?

Extremist groups have threatened to attack cartoonists and filmmakers in the past for depicting the prophet Mohammed. About ten years ago Danish and Norwegian newspapers published cartoons depicting Mohammad in unflattering poses that lead to protests, boycotts and threats of retaliation across the Middle East. Other filmmakers, like Theo van Gogh, were killed for their work.

What is the current response to the attacks?

Following the shooting Wednesday major cities across the country hosted vigils for those killed in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. The phrase, “Je Suis Charlie” has become the official image for protestors against the killing. The American Embassy in Paris adopted the phrase as its new Twitter avatar.

American satirists have also spoken out about the events that hit so close to home to them. 

Politicians around the globe have made statements condemning the attacks. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made repeated calls in their statements to uphold the freedom of speech and denounce the violence.

For up to date blog coverage of the events in Paris The Guardian and the New York Times both have great coverage.

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