- Masked gunmen storm Paris headquarters with AK-47s shouting ‘Allahu akbar!’ and ‘the Prophet has been avenged’
- Stalked building asking for people’s names before killing the editor and cartoonist during weekly editorial meeting
- Horrific footage shows a police officer begging for his life before being shot in the head at point-blank range
- Cartoonist Corrine Rey told how she cowered with her young daughter as she watched two colleagues gunned down
- Ms Rey, who goes by the name Coco, said men ‘spoke French perfectly’ and ‘claimed they were Al Qaeda terrorists’
- Killers fled in stolen car across eastern Paris after a ‘mass shoot-out’ with police officers and remain on the loose
- Newspaper had recently posted a picture of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on its Twitter account
- Publication’s offices were previously firebombed in 2011 for publishing satirical cartoon of Prophet Mohammed
Twelve people were killed today when gunmen carried out a ‘massacre’ at the offices of a notoriously anti-Islamist newspaper in Paris – including a police officer who was executed as he begged for mercy on the pavement.
Three masked attackers brandishing Kalashnikovs burst into the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, opening fire on staff after seeking out journalists by name.
Those executed included four of the most famous cartoonists in France – men who had regularly satirised Islam and the Prophet Mohammed – including the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier.
Witnesses said the suspect Al Qaeda killers were heard to shout ‘the Prophet has been avenged’ and ‘Allahu akbar!’ as they stalked the building.
Horrific footage also emerged showing an injured police officer slumped on the pavement outside the office as two of the gunmen approach.
In an apparent desperate plea for his life, the officer is seen slowly raising his hand towards one of the attackers, who responds by callously shooting him in the head at point-blank range.
Despite a shoot-out with armed officers, the ‘calm and highly disciplined’ men who reportedly spoke perfect French were able to escape in a hijacked car and remain on the loose.
By midday, there were reports of up to 12 people dead and 10 wounded, four critically, including journalists, administrative staff, and police officers who attended the scene.
President Francois Hollande described the bloodbath as a ‘barbaric attack against France and against journalists’ and vowed to hunt down those responsible.
As well as the AK47 assault rifles, there were also reports of a rocket-propelled grenade being used in the attack, which took place during the publication’s weekly editorial meeting, meaning all the journalists would have been present.
They are said to have sought out staff ‘by name’, according to a police source, adding that Charbonnier, known as Charb, a cartoonist responsible for an anti-Islam front page, was among those killed.
Mr Charbonnier was included in a 2013 Wanted Dead or Alive for Crimes Against Islam article published by Inspire, the terrorist propaganda magazine published by Al Qaeda.
Cartoonists Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski were all also reported dead.
A young mother and cartoonist who survived the massacre today told how she had let the suspected Al Qaeda killers into the office.
Corrine Rey said she had returned from picking up her young daughter from a kindergarten when she was confronted by two heavily armed men wearing balaclavas.
‘I had gone to pick up my daughter at day care, arriving in front of the building, where two masked and armed men brutally threatened us,’ said Ms Rey, who draws under the name ‘Coco’.
‘They said they wanted to go up to the offices, so I tapped in the code,’ said Ms Rey, referring to the digi-code security system on the interphone.
Ms Rey and her daughter hid under a desk, from where they saw two other cartoonists being executed. ‘They shot Wolinski and Cabu,’ she said. ‘It lasted five minutes. I had taken refuge under a desk.’
Ms Rey said the men ‘spoke French perfectly’ and ‘claimed they were ‘Al Qaeda terrorists’.
Meanwhile, there were reports of a car explosion outside a synagogue in Sarcelles, a commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, just hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
He said: ‘There were very many people in the building. We evacuated via the roof just next to the office. After around ten minutes we saw two heavily armed, masked men in the street’.
Another witness said: ‘There was a loud gunfire and at least one explosion. When police arrived there was a mass shoot-out. The men got away by car, stealing a car.’
A police official, Luc Poignant, said: ‘It’s carnage.’
The latest tweet published by the newspaper’s official Twitter account featured a cartoon of Abu Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State.
After the shooting, hundreds of comments were posted on the Charlie Hebdo Twitter page, with one user, David Rault, writing: ‘A sad day for freedom of expression.’
Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Gerard Biard escaped the carnage because he was in London.
He told France Inter: ‘I am shocked that people can have attacked a newspaper in France, a secular republic. I don’t understand it.
‘I don’t understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.’
Mr Biard said he did not believe the attack was linked to the newspaper’s latest front page, which featured novelist Michel Houellebecq, who has previously sparked controversy with comments about Islam.
And he said the newspaper had not received threats of violence: ‘Not to my knowledge, and I don’t think anyone had received them as individuals, because they would have talked about it. There was no particular tension at the moment.’
A visibly shocked French President François Hollande, speaking live near the scene of the shooting, said: ‘France is today in shock, in front of a terrorist attack.
‘This newspaper was threatened several rimes in the past and we need to show we are a united country.
‘We have to be firm, and we have to be stand strong with the international community in the coming days and weeks.
‘We are at a very difficult moment following several terrorist attacks. We are threated because we are a country of freedom
‘We will punish the attackers. We will look for the people responsible.’
Prime Minister David Cameron joined the condemnation of the attack, saying: ‘The murders in Paris are sickening.
‘We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.’
The British Foreign Office immediately updated is advice for travellers heading to Pairs, warning: ‘There is a high threat from terrorism.’
It added: ‘If you’re in Paris or the Ile de France area take extra care and follow advice of French
Luce Lapin and Laurent Leger, who have both worked at Charlie Hebdo, were using Twitter hours before the attack, with the most recent tweet posted by Lapin praising cartoonist Cabu.
It read: ‘Cabu, a great man! And honest, he doesn’t eat foie gras.’
While Leger’s made a political point about taxes.
It said: ‘Macron [French ministry of economy] wants more billionaires in France, the same that use tricks for not paying ISF [solidarity tax on wealth].’
A source close to the investigation said men ‘armed with a Kalashnikov and a rocket-launcher’ stormed the building in central Paris and ‘fire was exchanged with security forces.’
The offices of the same newspaper were burnt down in a petrol attack in 2011 after running a magazine cover of the Prophet Mohammed as a cartoon character.
At the time, the editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier, said Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press.
He said: ‘If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.’
Mr Charbonnier, also known as Charb, said he did not see the attack on the newspaper as the work of French Muslims, but of what he called ‘idiot extremists’.
The cover showed Mohammed saying: ‘100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter’.
This week’s Charlie Hebdo also featured the author Houellebecq, whose new novel imagines Muslims tkaing over the French government in 2022.
Inside, there was an editorial, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, and more cartoons – one showing the Prophet with a clown’s red nose.
Depiction of the False Prophet is strictly prohibited in Islam, but the newspaper denied it was trying to be provocative.
A firebomb attack gutted the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in November 2011 after it put an image of the False Prophet Mohammed on its cover.
[youtube v=bTwxWBfL-GY nolink]