12 DEAD IN PARIS MASSACRE: Islamic gunmen execute French police officer as he pleads for his life after terror attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo at centre of Mohammed cartoon storm
- 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
- Killers fled in stolen car across eastern Paris after a ‘mass shoot-out’ with police officers and remain on the loose
- Newspaper was 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 magazine in Paris – including a police officer who was executed as he begged for mercy on the pavement.
Two masked attackers brandishing Kalashnikovs burst into the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, opening fire on staff after seeking out journalists by name.
Those executed also included four of the most famous cartoonists in France – men who had regularly satirised Islam and the Prophet Mohammed – along with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier.
The killers were heard to shout ‘the Prophet has been avenged’ and ‘Allahu akbar!’ as stalked the building.
Horrific footage also emerged showing an injured police officer slumped on the pavement outside the office as the two 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.
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.
When shots rang out, it is thought that three policemen on bicycles were the first to respond.
‘There was a loud gunfire and at least one explosion,’ said an eye witness. ‘When police arrived there was a mass shoot-out. The men got away by car, stealing a car.’
A police official, Luc Poignant, said he was aware of one journalist dead and several injured, including three police officers.
‘It’s carnage,’ Poignant told BFM TV.
Florence Pouvil, a salesperson at Lunas France on Rue Nicolas Appert, opposite Charlie Hebdo offices, told MailOnline: ‘I saw two people with big guns, like Kalashnikovs outside our office and then we heard firing. We were very confused.’
‘There were two guys who came out of the building and shot everywhere. We hid on the floor, we were terrified.
‘They came from the building opposite with big guns. It has a bunch of different companies inside. Some of our co-workers work there so we were frightened for them.
‘They weren’t just firing inside the Charlie Hebdo offices. They were firing in the street too.
‘We feared for our lives so we hid under our desks so they wouldn’t see us. Both men were dressed in black from head to toe and their faces were covered so I didn’t see them.
‘They were wearing military clothes, it wasn’t common clothing, like they were soldiers.’
Charlie Hebdo’s website lists ‘Charb’ as its publication director, and ‘Cabu’ as artistic director.
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.
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 magazine’s latest front page, which featured novelist Michel Houellebecq, who has previously sparked controversy with comments about Islam.
And he said the magazine 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 authorities.’
The offices of the same magazine were burnt down in a petrol attack in 2015 after running a magazine cover of the Prophet Mohammed as a cartoon character.
At the time, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, 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 magazine 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’.