French security personnel are searching for three terrorists — all French nationals — who murdered 12 people and wounded a dozen more at the offices of a satiric magazine in Paris that had previously published cartoon depictions of the founder of Islam, the prophet Muhammed.
The suspects have been identified as two brothers from the Paris region, approximately age 32 and 34. The third man is approximately age 18, not related and is from the northeastern city of Reims, police said. All three speak a fluent, colloquial French.
French police said the elder brother was previously tried on charges of terrorism. He was a member of an Iraqi terrorist network in the Paris area that was dismantled by security personnel, Fox News reported Wednesday night. The group had ties to Algiers, Yemen and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), authorities said.
The elder brother and his co-terrorists carried out a massive, methodical attack Wednesday on specific journalists at the offices of the satirical weekly magazine, ‘Charlie Hebdo’. The editor of the magazine and two police officers who responded to the attack were among the dead.
A young female cartoonist at the magazine who arrived with her small daughter was grabbed by the terrorists and ordered to tap in the security code allowing the attackers to enter the building. She and her daughter raced to cover, huddling under a desk, as she watched with horror while the men quickly but calmly fired AK47 assault rifles to kill her co-workers, first asking each his or her name, one by one. At the start of the assault, at least one of the attackers shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (Allah is Great! in Arabic) and while leaving the building, one allegedly proclaimed, “The prophet is avenged!”
After completing their bloody mission the attackers – suspected radical Islamists – raced out to a getaway car. They are still at large at this time, with security personnel across Europe. There are currently five million Muslims in France, comprising approximately eight percent of the total population in the country. Moreover, the suspects may have a head start due to the fact that France is part of the European Union, with its borders wide open, without any security or border checkpoints between EU member nations.
Thousands of French citizens have gathered in cities around the country to show their solidarity with the victims of the attack, waving signs that read (in French) “I Am Charlie.” A huge neon sign proclaimed the same message from a billboard above the crowd: “Nous sommes Charlie” (We Are Charlie.)
France has raised its security level to the highest alert possible nationwide, and other countries have tightened security measures around vulnerable targets as well.
In New York City, police officers were posted outside the French Consulate. NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton said, however, there appears to be no sign of any direct threat to the city at this time.