A brutal attack on Hebdo Charlie newspaper in Paris
on January 7, fails to achievethe terrorists’ aim
By Mary Ogar
The January 7 horrendous attack on the weekly satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, France has further underscored the dangers faced by journalists across the world.
For a city famous for its wine and perfume shops, eateries, beautiful parks and iconic monuments that attract millions of foreign tourists every year, the savagery of the assailants, perpetrated in broad daylight, rattled the unwary Parisians and left the entire country on the edge. As word went round, schools closed and security operatives poured into the streets.
By the time the dust settled, 12 people had been killed, including two policemen. Among the dead were the paper’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier (47); one of France’s most popular cartoonists, Jean Cabut (76); Cartoonists Georges Wolinski (80), Bernard Verlhac (57) and Philippe Honore (73).
Others were Bernard Maris, a 68-year-old economist, 54-year-old columnist, Elsa Cayat, Mustapha Ourrad, a copy editor and a visitor, Michel Renaud.
Two masked men, later identified as Cherif and Said Kouachi who were also brothers, carried out the attack and were heard shouting “Alau Akbar” after the killings.
A slip by one of them, which led to the discovery of an identity card in the vehicle they used for the operation, gave the French Police a quick lead on the attackers’ identities. A massive manhunt eventually led to the Police to a print shop in the small town of Dammanrtin-en-Goele, in the northeast of France, where a fierce gun battle ensued as the suspects emerged from their hideout firing at the police. They were eventually felled.
Cherif Kouachi reportedly admitted that the Yemen wing of Al Qaeda financed him to carry out the attack. The two brothers also affirmed that they had carried out the assault to avenge the newspaper’s insult against Prophet Muhammed.
Moments after they were killed, the Police also ended the second siege at a supermarket in eastern Paris where Amedy Coulibaly, the suspect, had killed four hostages in an apparent target of the Jews.
Coulibaly, who called the BFM-TV, admitted that the attack had been jointly planned with the Kouachi brothers and that the Jews were purposely targeted.
A search at the suspects’ hideout later revealed an arsenal of weapons.
There was an immediate outpouring of international support for France with President Francois Hollande declaring: “These mad men, fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.”
A huge rally was also held in Paris four days after the attack. Organisers said about 1.6 million people and up to 40 world leaders attended.
After an initial shock, the newspaper bounced back with an edition that also depicted Prophet Mohammed weeping while holding the sign saying “I am Charlie.” Unprecedented demand persuaded the newspaper to increase its print run to seven million copies from the usual 60,000.
As expected, the new edition also sparked off protests across the world, with killings taking place in Niger Republic.
The incident has also induced a huge debate on the limits of the freedom of expression. Although, moderate Muslims in France condemned the killings at Hebdo Charlie, they were also of the view that the newspaper should have been more sensitive to issues that affect the religion of Islam.
But some liberal French personalities insisted that Islam, like Christianity, Politics or culture of any kind, should also be opened to criticism. They affirmed that there is a clear dichotomy between religion and France, where “religion is viewed more or less as a private affair.”
Back in Nigeria, several journalists have also been killed over the stories they had written. The Nigerian Police have not found any of the killers in all the cases so far.