Charlie Hebdo Attacks - Background, Attacks and Aftermath (Download PDF)


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Background: Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper published in France on weekly basis which has been under immense scrutiny since its publication. It was first published under the name ‘Hara Kiri’ in the year 1961 and was briefly banned but be continued to publish. In 1969 the Hara Kiri team tough of publishing a weekly based on more recent worldly content. The name given to this magazine was Hara Kiri Hebdo. In 1970 made a spoof of former French President’s death and was permanently banned. In order to avoid their ban the editorial teams decided to change its name and publish the weekly under the name Charlie Hebdo. In the year 1981 it stopped publishing. In 1991 after a 10 year sabbatical the magazine was started again and has been continuing under constant scrutiny and controversies since then. The biggest scrutiny which the weekly faced was when in 2006 it published a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in which he is weeping and saying- “it’s hard being loved by jerks” This created a huge uproar in the Muslim community around the world demanding that the weekly should be banned from publishing. This did not stop the magazine from publishing content on The Prophet as later in the year 2012 the editors of the magazine went as far as publishing nude cartoons of the Prophet. This is said to be the reason why Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris was targeted by Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which is said to be Al-Qaeda’s terrorist branch in Yemen. It is also known that Stephanie Charbonnier who was one of the heads and owner at Charlie Hebdo had been named in the hit list released by Al-Qaeda in March 2013. In their defense the people of Charlie Hebdo said- “they do caricatures of different people every week then why is it wrong when they do caricatures of Mohammad”

Charlie Hebdo offices attacked: On Wednesday, January 7, two masked men holding Kalashnikov assault rifles entered the building. Once inside the building, the two men identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, asked the reception where the magazine’s offices were and then killed the caretaker and forced a cartoonist to enter the code in the key pad for entry into a newsroom where a meeting was going on. The two men then killed the editor’s bodyguard and asked by name who Stephane Charbonnier and the 4 cartoonists were and killed them one by one along with 3 editorial staff and a guest attending the meeting. The witnesses’say that they saw and heard the gunmen shouting- “God is great” and “We have avenged Prophet Mohammad” during the shooting. The police was informed of the incident and arrived as the gunmen were leaving. The police’s car was then shot at but the policemen managed to escape unhurt. It was observed by the journalists who had taken refuge on the top of a building that later during the escape the car of the terrorists stopped and one of the attackers went and shot the injured officer in the head. The getaway car was found empty as the terrorists had taken another car and escaped. Investigators further found out that the empty escape car of the attackers contained jihadist flags and Molotov cocktails. The 2 terrorists had then hijacked a grey Renault Clio and disappeared. Following the event Paris was put on maximum alert and 500 additional policemen were deployed all over the city. On 8th January as the authorities continued their search another incident took place which earlier was said to have no connection with the Charlie Hebdo attack but the police later confirmed it did as a gunman had shot 2 people and fled the scene. Around 10: 30 that night a major breakthrough happened as the two terrorists revealed their location by robbing a service station of food and petrol. The next day as the chase entered its final phase the two terrorists after hijacking another car during which Said Kouachi was shot in the neck and escaping a high-speed car chase took refuge in prints work in Dammartin-en-Goele which was surrounded by elite armed forces of France. There was an 8 hour standoff after which when the two brothers came out firing at the police, they were shot dead.

Meanwhile during this standoff, the lone gunman took several people hostage at the kosher market. He was identified as Amedy Coulibaly and was demanding that the Kouachi brothers be let go. Minutes after the standoff between the two terrorists and the armed forces ended, a bang was heard in the market and forces moved inside and shot Coulibaly. 15 hostages were freed but 4 bodies were also found. Amedy Coulibaly’s partner, Hayat Boumaddiene who is believed to be involved in this operation is still at large and is said to have fled the country.

Aftermath: The country was in a state of shock with this act of terrorism. Police had also arrested a lot of people who had publicly said that what happened with Charlie Hebdo was absolutely right and many were even jailed for several months. But most of the people in of the country were mourning and even angered to an extent over this act of terror as this was one of the biggest terror attacks in the history of the nation.

Author’s insight: The Author feels that though Charlie Hebdo magazine had made a mistake and taken its right to speak freely in a wrong way to speak ill of a particular religion and hurt religiously sentiments. But in no way does this give a right to any person to take life in the name of God as Quran-the holy book of the Islam community or even any other religious book does not preach that.

Author: Satyajay Jethwa

- Published/Last Modified on: February 19, 2015


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