PARIS (AP) -- Masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people before escaping, in France's deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.
French President Francois Hollande said the attack on the Charlie Hebdo weekly, which has frequently drawn condemnation from Muslims, is "a terrorist attack, without a doubt," and said several other attacks have been thwarted in France "in recent weeks."
France raised its alert to the highest level, and reinforced security at houses of worship, stores, media offices and transportation. Top government officials were holding an emergency meeting.
Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre confirmed 12 people were killed.
Luc Poignant, an official of the SBP police union, said the attackers escaped in two vehicles. A witness, Benoit Bringer, told the iTele network he saw multiple masked men armed with automatic weapons at the newspaper's office in central Paris.
The extremist Islamic State group has threatened to attack France, and minutes before the attack Charlie Hebdo had tweeted a satirical cartoon of that extremist group's leader giving New Year's wishes. Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly threatened for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches, and its offices were firebombed in 2011.
The 2011 firebombing came after a spoof issue featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover. Nearly a year later, the publication again published crude Muhammad caricatures, drawing denunciations around the Muslim world.
Wednesday's attack comes the same day of the release of a book by a celebrated French novelist depicting France's election of its first Muslim president. Hollande had been due to meet with the country's top religious officials later in the day.
Armed gunmen face police near the Charlie Hebdo offices
BEFORE YOU GO
01/09/2015 11:02 PM EST
Pro-Israel Rally In Amsterdam Scrapped
A pro-Israel rally set for January 11 in Amsterdam was "postponed because of the current situation in Paris," the organizers Holland4Israel announced. A new date for the event was not given.
01/09/2015 9:24 PM EST
Prosecutor Reveals Details From Sieges
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins revealed more details of the siege that killed the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly, the Telegraph reports.
- The brothers had a loaded M82 rocket launcher, two Kalashnikov machine guns and two automatic pistols.
- Coulibaly had a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Skorpion military pistol.
"On the body of one of the terrorists, the demining teams also found a grenade that had been positioned as a trap," Molins said.
01/09/2015 9:16 PM EST
Police Continue Search For Possible Accomplice
French police continued to search for Hayat Boumeddiene, a 26-year-old woman who is suspected of being an accomplice in the Paris attacks, ITV reports.
As of early Saturday morning, Boumeddiene is believed to still be on the run. She is a suspect in the killing of female police officer in Paris on Thursday, and is thought to have been the girlfriend of Amedy Coulibaly, who was killed by police on Friday.
01/09/2015 9:09 PM EST
'Paris is Charlie' Projected On Paris' Arc De Triomphe
01/09/2015 8:23 PM EST
Hacktivist Group Anonymous Vows Revenge For Charlie Hebdo Attack
Hacktivist group Anonymous released a video in which it states that it will shut down jihadist websites to avenge the Charlie Hebdo attack.
01/09/2015 8:20 PM EST
Prosecutor: Brothers Extensively Coordinated With Other Suspects
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that the Kouachi brothers had spoken on the phone more than 500 times with Amedy Coulibaly and his girlfriend Hayat Boumedienne, prior to the Paris attacks, the Guardian reports.
Both the Kouach brothers and Coulibaly were killed in dual sieges on Friday.
01/09/2015 8:15 PM EST
Memorial Outside Charlie Hebdo Offices In Paris
Pens, flowers, a flag, and a bottle of wine. Vive la France... pic.twitter.com/6MBaXWHkjd— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) January 10, 2015
01/09/2015 6:14 PM EST
Footage Of French Raid On Terror Suspects In Dammartin
France's National Gendarmerie released footage of its special forces raiding the printing house in Dammartin-en-Goele where the two Charlie Hebdo attack suspects were holding a person hostage.
The National Gendarmerie also released a picture of the hostage, with their face blurred, being led to safety after the raid. Both of the suspects were killed.
01/09/2015 5:44 PM EST
Yemen Launches Investigation Into Al Qaeda Link To France Attacks
Yemen's Spokesperson in Washington Mohammed Albasha writes on Twitter that Yemen has launched an investigation into possible connections between Al Qaeda's branch in the country, and the attacks in France.
01/09/2015 5:37 PM EST
Al Qaeda In Yemen's Statement On The Attacks
Al Qaeda's Yemen branch released an audio statement on the attacks in France, after a member of the group told the Associated Press they had "directed" the assault on Charlie Hebdo.
Soon after, the branch's senior cleric Sheikh Harith al-Nadhari issued a recording on the group's Twitter feed commenting on the "blessed raid on Paris." He denounced the "filthy" French and called them "the heads of infidelity who insult the prophets." He praised the "hero mujahedeen" who he said "taught them a lesson and the limits of freedom of speech."
Al-Nadhari stopped short of directly claiming responsibility for the attack, but added, "How can we not fight those who hurt our prophet, slandered our religion and fought the faithful."
Addressing the French, he said, "It better for you to stop striking Muslims so you can live in peace. But if you only wish for war, then rejoice, you will not enjoy peace as long as you wage war on God and his prophets and fight Muslims."
It was not immediately clear why al-Nadhari did not outright said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was behind the attack. The member told the AP that the group as delaying its official declaration of responsibility for "security reasons."