Hunt for gunmen after 12 killed in Paris attack on satirical magazine

One suspect surrenders; French President Hollande condemns 'cowardly' assassination of staffers at controversial weekly

A French judicial official says one man sought in the deadly shooting at a French satirical paper has turned himself in to police.

French police had named three suspects in Wednesday's massacre that left at least 12 people dead at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. 

French media reported that one of the men was Cherif Kouachi, who had spent 18 months in prison after being convicted in 2008 of being part of a group sending fighters to Iraq. While Kouachi and his older brother Said remained at large late Wednesday, the third suspect — Hamyd Mourad — turned himself in to police.  

An official at the Paris prosecutor's office said the youngest of the three had turned himself in at a police station in Charleville-Mézières, some 145 miles northeast of Paris near the Belgium border, according to Reuters.

Earlier in the day, three hooded attackers clad all in black, brandishing automatic rifles and speaking flawless French, had forced one of the publication's cartoonists, Corinne Rey, who was at the office with her young daughter, to open the door. In an interview with the newspaper L'Humanité, she said the entire shooting, which left 10 journalists and two police officers dead, lasted about five minutes.

The carnage sparked worldwide outrage, and prompted an intense manhunt. A document sent to police departments nationwide named the suspects as the Kouachi brothers, said to hail from Paris, and Mourad, who was from the northeastern city of Reims, where anti-terrorism police later reportedly searched a house. Amid the searches, police released photographs of the brothers.

Police sources told the media that Cherif Kouachi had been arrested in 2005 before leaving for Iraq to join fighters there. He was convicted in 2008 and served 18 months in prison, according to French media.

Staff members of the magazine, which has courted controversy for publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, were in an editorial meeting at the time of the attack. The gunmen headed straight for the paper's editor, Stéphane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name, Charb — killing him and his police bodyguard, said Christophe Crepin, a police union spokesman on the scene. 

Minutes later, gunmen were seen walking to a black car waiting below, calmly firing on a police officer, with one of the killers shooting him in the head as he writhed on the ground.

"Hey! We avenged the Prophet Muhammad! We killed Charlie Hebdo," one of the men shouted, according to a video shot from a nearby building and broadcast on French television. The video could not immediately be confirmed by Al Jazeera. 

Large numbers of police and ambulances rushed to the scene, where shocked residents spilled into the streets. Reporters also saw bullet-riddled windows and people being carried out on stretchers.

Bernard Cazeneuve, France's interior minister, vowed to "track down the three criminals." He added that "all of our resources will be mobilized so that we can find out who committed this act and make sure they are punished for this act of barbarity." French authorities have said that all school trips and outdoor activities have been canceled while the gunmen are at large

French President François Hollande headed to the scene shortly after Wednesday's shooting and said that the dead were "cowardly assassinated" and that four others were critically injured. He described the shooting as a "terrorist operation against a newspaper that has been threatened several times." He added that 40 people were being protected in the aftermath of the shooting.

Wednesday night, Hollande addressed the nation on television and declared a national day of mourning for Thursday and ordered flags to be lowered for three days. 

"The whole of the French republic has been attacked," he said. "[The gunmen] tried to attack the idea of peace and justice ... and we have to do everything to ensure they are arrested, judged and punished in the most severe way." 

Rallies and vigils were taking place across cities in France to show support for the victims of the shooting. 

Charlie Hebdo has drawn repeated threats for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial features. The newspaper's offices were firebombed in 2011 after a spoof issue featuring a caricature of Muhammad on its cover. 

A year later, the magazine published more Muhammad drawings amid an uproar over an anti-Muslim film. The cartoons depicted Muhammad naked and in demeaning or pornographic poses. The French government defended free speech even as it rebuked Charlie Hebdo for fanning tensions.

"We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras. Some use computers. For us, it's a paper and pencil," the Muhammad cartoonist, who goes by the name Luz, told The Associated Press in 2012. "A pencil is not a weapon. It's just a means of expression."

Charbonnier, among the 10 journalists killed Wednesday, also defended the Muhammad cartoons.

He told Le Monde newspaper two years ago, "I'd rather die standing than live on my knees." One of his last cartoons, published in this week's issue, seemed an eerie premonition. "Still no attacks in France," an extremist fighter says. "Wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes."

The attack, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility, comes amid what a number of commentators have identified as rising xenophobia in Europe, with thousands of protesters in several German cities rallying earlier this week against Muslim immigration. France's Muslim population of 5 million is Europe's largest.

"I am extremely angry. These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom. This is not Islam, and I hope the French will come out united at the end of this," said Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque in Paris' Seine-St.-Denis northern suburb.

New York–based advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned what its deputy director, Robert Mahoney, called "a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe."

With wire services

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