8 journalists and 2 policemen are among the dead in Paris attack

France has raised its security alert for Paris to the highest level
France has raised its security alert for Paris to the highest level

Eight journalists, including the magazine?s editor, and two policemen were among the dead. French media have named the suspects, quoting police.

France has raised its security alert for Paris to the highest level
France has raised its security alert for Paris to the highest level

A police operation is under way in Reims, north-east of Paris.

Protests over the attack, the deadliest the country has seen in decades, are being held across France.

President Francois Hollande called it a ?cowardly murder? and declared a day of national mourning on Thursday.

He said the country?s tradition of free speech had been attacked and called on all French people to stand together. ?Our best weapon is our unity,? Mr Hollande said in a televised address late on Wednesday.

Security has been stepped up across France in the wake of the attack, with Paris placed on the highest alert.

Media reports described one of the three suspects as a militant sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison for belonging to a group sending jihadist fighters to Iraq.

Late on Wednesday elite commandoes were seen hunting for the three in Reims, 140km (90 miles) from Paris.

The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.

The attack took place as the magazine was holding its weekly editorial meeting. French media have named three cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, as well as Charlie Hebdo contributor and French economist Bernard Maris.

Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.

Cartoonist Corinne Rey, said the hooded gunmen 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.

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

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

They were heard shouting ?we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad? and ?God is Great? in Arabic (?Allahu Akbar?).

Police said the masked gunmen fled to northern Paris, before abandoning their car and hijacking a second one.

The Paris prosecutor, Francois Molins, said 11 people had been wounded in the attack, four of them seriously.

He told reporters all efforts were being made to find those responsible, without giving any details about the investigation.

?The investigations have been numerous and in-depth, because of course, the police have been mobilised, and these inquiries are going on.?

The killings have been condemned by leaders worldwide, 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 denounces any violence?.

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

Thousands of people have gathered at the Place de la Republique in central Paris for a vigil, many holding up placards saying ?Je suis Charlie? (I am Charlie), referring to a hashtag that is trending on Twitter in solidarity with the victims.

Piles of pens ? symbolising freedom of expression ? and candles have been laid across the square.

Tens of thousands of people have also joined rallies in other cities across France.

Charlie Hebdo?s website, which went offline during the attack, is displaying the single image of ?Je suis Charlie? on a black banner. Other major newspapers are displaying similar banners.

The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo?s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The country was already on the alert for Islamist militant attacks after several incidents just before Christmas, although the French government has denied the attacks were linked.

It is the deadliest attack in France since 1961, when a bomb planted by far-right militants opposed to plans for Algerian independence killed 28 people on a train.

Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 sparking riots in Muslim countries, says it has stepped up security in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Source: BBC

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