Paris Terrorist Attack Leads News Coverage in U.S., Europe

Associated Press
The scene outside the Charlie Hebdo offices on Wednesday

Reports say 12 people were killed, while others are in critical condition following the assault on Charlie Hebdo

European media offered in-depth news coverage of the killing of 12 people at the Paris office of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo mid-day Wednesday local time.

U.S. TV networks also provided coverage of the attack in the early morning hours, with morning shows, such as NBC's Today, leading off with a report on it, including video from the scene, before moving onto other news. Today also brought in its chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, who called in to the show to discuss the attack. Engel said the shooters appear to have been inspired by ISIS.

French officials have named three suspects in the killings, French brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, who are in their early 30s, and Hamyd Mourad, 18.  

Good Morning America also covered the news early in its Wednesday broadcast before also moving on to other stories. The GMA and ABC News sites featured a banner saying "Breaking News: At Least 11 Dead, 4 Critically Injured in Shooting at French Satirical Newspaper Office" early morning East Coast time.

By 7:30 a.m. both GMA and Today were back to their regularly scheduled programming, covering lighter stories and other topics in the news.

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CBS This Morning provided coverage in a few segments, including devoting a few minutes to the attack at the top of the 8 a.m. hour. CBS aired amateur video showing part of the attack, with correspondent Clarissa Ward describing what the video depicted from CBS' London newsroom. CBS News producer Elaine Cobbe also called in from Paris, reporting on the government response, including what it means that the country has raised its alert to the highest level. The morning show also brought in its senior security correspondent Mike Morell to discuss the significance of the attacks.

The coverage of the attack was much more comprehensive on the U.S. cable news networks, including CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. MSNBC's Morning Joe brought in White House press secretary Josh Earnest at 7:34 a.m.  All three were still covering the incident shortly before 10 a.m. East Coast time, airing and analyzing video and photos from the scene as well as reporting on the latest developments. Anderson Cooper anchored part of CNN's coverage from CNN's studio in New York. Wolf Blitzer took over at 10 a.m. MSNBC seemed to be sticking with its scheduled anchors as they focused on the news. On Fox News, Bill Hemmer anchored their coverage from New York with Sky News correspondent Robert Nesbit reporting from the scene.

In France, TF1, France2, France 4 all broke into regular programming with wall-to-wall coverage of the news. France2 showed footage shot by neighbors of the gunmen fleeing the building with the weapons and entering a small black car. It also showed footage of employees fleeing the building via the roof.

French news networks BFMTV, iTele and France24 also had continuous coverage of the incident. The reports said that the attack began at 11:30 a.m. Paris time. TF1 returned to regular programming in the 2 p.m. hour. Channel D8 canceled Wednesday night's edition of entertainment chat show Touche pas a mon poste!, and CanalPlus is set to air special edition of Le Grand Journal dedicated to the shootings.

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Media also covered French President Francois Hollande, who quickly denounced the attack, immediately labeling it a terrorist attack and calling for an emergency meeting at the French White House, the Elysee Palace. Speaking to the media at the scene, Hollande said France “today faced a shock” regarding the incident and that security levels across Paris had been raised, describing the attackers as “barbarians” and the magazine as representing the “freedom of the press." He also claimed that a “number” of terrorist plots had been intercepted over the past few weeks. Hollande will address the country at 8 p.m. local time.

Media reports also said that the gunmen shouted "Allahu Akbar" during the attack. According to various reports, masked gunmen, armed with Kalashnikovs, pump-action shotguns and rocket propelled grenades, showed up at the office of the publication, which was previously a target after it ran cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2011. Its offices were firebombed back then.

French police said they were looking to find the gunmen who escaped into the streets of Paris after the shootout. The incident is France's deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.

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World leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attack, but supporters of the militant Islamic State group celebrated the slayings as well-deserved revenge against France.

The Islamic State group has repeatedly threatened to attack France. Just minutes before the attack, Charlie Hebdo had tweeted a satirical cartoon of that extremist group's leader giving New Year's wishes. Another cartoon, released in this week's issue and entitled "Still No Attacks in France," had a caricature of an extremist fighter saying "Just wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes."

Earnest said U.S. officials have been in close contact with the French since the attack. "We know they are not going to be cowed by this terrible act," he said. Obama later offered help to French officials to pursue terrorists responsible for what he is calling a "horrific shooting."

In a statement, Obama offered thoughts and prayers for the people of France, which he called "America's oldest ally." He says France and Paris, will endure beyond "the hateful vision of these killers."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also condemned what he called an attack on freedom of expression and addressed the people of France, first in English and then in French, during a televised press conference shortly before 11 a.m. ET.

"Each and every American stands with you today not just in horror or in anger or in outrage at this vicious act of violence," Kerry said, addressing the people of France. "No, we stand with you in solidarity and in commitment both to the cause of confronting extremism and to the cause which the extremists fear so much, which is always united our two countries: freedom. No country knows better than France that freedom has a price because France gave birth to democracy itself. France sparked so many revolutions of the human spirit, born of free expression, and that is what the extremists fear the most. They may wield weapons but those in France and we in the United States share a commitment to those who wield something that is far more powerful, not just a pen but a pen that represents an instrument of freedom not fear. Free expression and a free press are core values, they are universal values. Principles that can be attacked but never eradicated because brave and decent people around the world will never give in to the intimidation and the terror that those seeking to destroy those values employ…The murderers dared proclaim Charlie Hebdo is dead, but make no mistake, they are wrong, today, tomorrow, in Paris, in France or across the world, the freedom of expression that this magazine…represented is not able to be killed by this act of terror…it will never be eradicated by any act of terror…What these people who do these things don't understand is that they will only strengthen the commitment to that freedom and our commitment to a civilized world."

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On social media, supporters of militant Islamic groups praised the move. One Twitter user who identified themselves as a Tunisian loyalist of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group called the attack well-deserved revenge against France.

Elsewhere on the Internet, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie was trending as people expressed support for weekly and for journalistic freedom.

In the U.K., the BBC was providing rolling coverage of the attack on TV and radio as of mid-day Wednesday. News of the attack also led German network newscasts and web sites of such media organizations as tabloid Bild and news magazine Spiegel. “Massacre at Parisian Newspaper” read the headline of Bild.

In Italy, newspaper web sites and TV networks also provided ongoing coverage mid-day. Newspaper sites and local news coverage also included videos of the incident, including one of a policeman getting gunned down on the street.

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Politicians across Europe condemned the attack, with British Prime Minister David Cameron calling it “sickening” and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker describing the shooting as an act of "barbarism."

The French satirical magazine had been the target of a firebomb attack in 2011 after it reprinted controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Among the people who were confirmed dead as of mid-day were cartoonist Jean Cabut; editor in chief Stephane Charbonnier; economist, journalist and professor Bernard Maris, who was currently teaching at the University of Paris VIII and had previously taught at the University of Iowa; and cartoonists Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac, who was popularly known by the nickname "Tignous," as well as two police officers. Cabut did a cover for Charlie Hebdo that was a response to the Danish cartoon controversy, depicting Mohammad crying, but was also famous for other work, including an anti-militarist teen and a caricature of the average racist Frenchman. He had exhibits dedicated to his work.

The French authors, directors and producers guild (L’ARP) issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, expressing “full solidarity” with the journalists of the weekly and saying that “bravery honors creation and freedom.”
 
“Nothing – neither threats nor violence, whatever the motive, whether political, religious or otherwise, will hinder the freedom of expression and the freedom of creation,” the organization said. The statement was signed by members of the group’s council including directors Claude Lelouch, Michel Hazanvicius, Eric Lartigau, Olivier Nakache, Costa Gavras, Eric Toledano, Jean-Paule Salome, producer Radu Mihaileanu and actress Julie Gayet, among others.
 
The Society of Authors and Composers (SACD) added the #JeSuisCharlie graphic to its homepage.

Hollande addressed the country at 8 p.m. local time live on televsion, and declared Thursday to be a national day of mourning and said the country will hold a minute of silence at noon. Flags across the country will be flown at half mast for three days, he said. 
 
"Liberty will always be stronger than barbarity," he added. Hollande called for national unity and said that nothing will divide the nation.
 
"Coming together, in all its forms, is what our response should be," he said.
 
He finished his remarks saying: "We will win because we have the capacity to believe in our destiny. Vive la republique, vive la France."
 
As the president spoke, a unity rally was taking place at the Republique square in Paris, not far from the Charlie Hebdo offices, where police estimated more than 35,000 people gathered. Other spontaneous rallies were taking place in cities across France, including Lille, Toulouse and Lyon.

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The motive for Wednesday's shootings is still unclear, though the current issue of Charlie Hebdo features a caricature of French writer Michel Houellebecq, whose new novel, Submission, has enraged many in France. The book imagines France in 2022 taken over by an extreme Islamic party, which introduced Sharia law.

The attack in Paris comes at a time of rising political tensions in Europe over immigration and the role of Islam in European society. In France, the far-right Front National party, has gained voter support as has Nigel Farage's UK Independence Party in Britain, in part with anti-immigrant rhetoric. In Germany, a new anti-Islamic movement has been staging weekly marches in the eastern German city of Dresden, which have attracted up to 18,000 people.

Rhonda Richford, Hilary Lewis and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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