At least 12 people were killed Wednesday when gunmen stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris in what French President Francois Hollande called a “terrorist attack.”
The Associated Press reported that Paris prosecutor’s spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre confirmed the deaths at Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in central Paris.
“We will find the people who did this,” Hollande told reporters, as quoted by NBC News. “France is today shocked by this terrorist attack.”
The exact number of assailants is still unclear. France’s top security official said that three gunmen carried out the attack, according to the AP. But in a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins put the number of attackers at “at least two.”
Molins said that two people emerged from a black Citroen around 11:30 a.m. wearing black balaclavas and carrying automatic weapons similar to Kalashnikov rifles.
The gunmen proceeded to the second floor of Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters, where staff were in an editorial meeting, according to Molins. There they opened fire and killed 10 people, including eight journalists and one police officer assigned to protect a staff member.
A witness said the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” and “We’ve taken revenge against the prophet,” according to Molins. They then left the scene and were involved in three more shooting incidents, the third of which left another police officer dead.
Molins said eleven more people were wounded in the attack, four of whom were in critical condition.
A designer for Charlie Hebdo, Corinne Rey, reportedly told a French publication that the attackers threatened her to gain access to the newspaper’s offices.
“It lasted five minutes,” she said of the attack, adding that the assailants “spoke French perfectly.”
Gunshots can be heard on video, which was shot from a nearby rooftop and published by FranceTV Info, that purports to show two gunmen outside the Charlie Hebdo offices. A bullet-ridden police car was also spotted outside the building:
— Julien Rebucci (@julienrbcc) January 7, 2015
The Wall Street Journal reported that the attackers escaped in a car headed toward north Paris, citing a police officer at the scene. French television reported that the attackers eventually abandoned that car and later escaped after exchanging fire with police at the city’s northern limit, according to the Journal.
The Associated Press reported that Charlie Hebdo’s editor Charb, whose real name is Stéphane Charbonnier and who was one of the newspaper’s cartoonists, as well as another cartoonist who went by the pen name Cabu were killed in the attack. The police officer who died in the office was assigned to guard Charb because of threats the editor had received, according to the AP.
The publication has been a magnet for threats over the years because of its cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Its headquarters were firebombed in 2011 after it ran a caricature of Mohammed on its cover.
Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Biard, was in London at the time of the attack. He told France Inter the attack on the satirical newspaper “shocked” him. He also said that he didn’t believe the publication had received any threats.
“Not to my knowledge, and I don’t think anyone had received them as individuals, because they would have talked about it,” he said, as quoted by the Guardian. “There was no particular tension at the moment.”
Biard also told France Inter that he believed the attack wasn’t related to Charlie Hebdo’s most recent cover, which featured controversial French novelist Michel Houellebecq. The AP noted that that Wednesday’s attack coincided with the release of Houellebecq’s new book depicting the election of the country’s first Muslim president.
A cartoon of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, titled “Still No Attacks in France,” was published in this week’s edition, according to the AP. It carried a message reading “Just wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.”
Charlie Hebdo also tweeted this cartoon minutes before the attack:
Meilleurs vœux, au fait. pic.twitter.com/a2JOhqJZJM
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) January 7, 2015
This post has been updated.