Offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, known for publishing unflattering illustrations of Muhammad, were attacked by a pair of al-Qaeda gunmen. Twelve people, including staff, bystanders, and police officers, were killed.
serving as publication director at Charlie Hebdo
Having developed a reputation of comic irreverence, the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has always been known for its firm stance of secularism and atheism, holding no subjects sacred. Transgressive at heart, it is eager to blaspheme, and it does so with all religions. Its blasphemy against Islam, however, resulted in one of the most high-profile terror attacks in French history.
Throughout its history, Charlie Hebdo has published visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad numerous times, something which Islamic doctrine strictly forbids. One of the most significant instances occurred on November 3rd, 2011, when a cartoon drawing of the Prophet appeared on the magazine’s cover. A speech bubble in front of him read “100 lashes if you don't die of laughter.” For that issue, the magazine was rebranded as Charia Hebdo. This particular issue led to the bombing of Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris, though that attack would be eclipsed three years later.
In 2013, Charlie Hebdo publication director Stéphane Charbonnier—better known as “Charb”—was placed on a wanted list in an al-Qaeda publication. In the interim since that initial attack, the magazine had moved its offices to an undisclosed location for safety’s sake. Nonetheless, two gunmen were able to discover its location, and on the morning of January 7, 2015, as Charlie Hebdo staff held a weekly editorial meeting, they arrived there, forced an employee to open the door’s electronic lock at gunpoint, and entered.
“It was a vision of horror — it was a total blood bath. There were so many bodies on the ground, and a number of extremely frightened people hidden under tables who weren’t moving.” - Julien Beaupé, a worker in the same office building
Their shooting spree took the lives of 12 people, including Charb, as well as a police officer outside as the shooters escaped. Witnesses reported the attackers shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and claiming they belonged to al-Qaeda in Yemen. The killers remained at large for two days before being killed by police in a standoff.
Both in France and worldwide, mass demonstrations followed the shooting. Candlelight vigils host to thousands of people were held at night, while marches of hundreds of thousands occurred in France a few days after the attack. French President François Hollande designated the day after the incident as one of mourning, while international heads of state and government roundly condemned the attack and offered sympathies to the deceased and their families. This came even as some militant Islamist organizations in the Muslim world justified or otherwise rationalized the shooting.
“Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers.” - U.S. President Barack Obama
The Charlie Hebdo attacks claimed the lives of Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the magazine’s director of publication; Franck Brinsolaro, a bodyguard designated to Charb by the French Protection Service; Ahmed Merabet, a police officer; Michel Renaud, a travel writer who had been invited to the editorial meeting; Frédéric Boisseau, a maintenance worker; Bernard Maris, an editor and writer; Elsa Cayat, a psychiatrist and writer; Mustapha Ourrad, an editor; and Jean “Cabu” Cabut, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, Philippe Honoré, and Georges Wolinski, cartoonists.
Charlie Hebdo attack vigils – in pictures - The Guardian
More than 700,000 people march against terrorism in France - Le Monde [in French]