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The nation of France is reeling tonight. Heavily armed gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed the office of a Paris publication today. They left a dozen dead and 11 wounded, four of them critically. Police later identified the gunmen, who vanished into a stunned French capital.
Hari Sreenivasan begins our coverage.
Shock and disbelief gripped Parisians moments after the military-style attack. Three hooded men with assault rifles forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper.
Within minutes, they killed the editor, nine others, including two prominent political cartoonists, and a police guard. Back outside, they riddled a police car with bullets and gunned down another officer.
WOMAN (through interpreter):
I was on my balcony, and I heard a loud noise and then I saw an injured policeman.
Amateur video captured a gunman who approached the wounded officer, and killed him with a shot to the head. Before driving away, the attackers shouted in Arabic "Allahu akbar," "God is great," and in French, "We avenged the Prophet Mohammed. We killed Charlie Hebdo."
The left-leaning newspaper had repeatedly been threatened over satirical commentary and cartoons on Islam and other religions. In 2011, a firebombing gutted its headquarters after editors used an image of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover. No one was hurt in that attack.
But today's mass killing brought French President Francois Hollande to the crime scene.
PRESIDENT FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):
An act of exceptional barbarity was committed here in Paris against a newspaper, the expression of freedom against journalists.
We knew we were under threat, just like other countries in the world. We are being threatened because we are a country of freedom. And because we are a country of freedom, we will beat the threats and will punish the aggressors.
But, in the immediate aftermath, the gunmen got away cleanly, and a sweeping manhunt began across Paris and continued into the night.
EMMANUEL QUEMENER, Alliance Police Nationale (through interpreter):
These individuals are being thoroughly pursued, and this is a priority because they are armed and extremely dangerous.
Hours later, police announced two of the men were brothers in their 30s, both French nationals. And the third was a teenager.
The Islamic State group, along with al-Qaida, had threatened to attack France, and it praised the killings. But leaders of Paris' Muslim community denounced the attack.
DALIL BOUBAKEUR, Rector, Great Mosque of Paris (through interpreter): Truly, Islam condemns assassination, condemns murder, condemns taking the lives of those around you, truly. And we are absolutely horrified. We are stunned.
The government of Saudi Arabia joined in the condemnation, as did Egypt's leading Islamic authority and the Arab League.
And across Europe, national leaders quickly came to France's support.
DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister, United Kingdom:
I know that this house and this country stands united with the French people in our opposition to all forms of terrorism. And we stand squarely for free speech and democracy. And these people will never be able to take us off those values.
In Washington, President Obama said the United States will provide any help it can. He branded the killings — quote — "a cowardly and evil act."
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
The one thing I'm very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief, a universal belief in freedom of expression, is something that can't be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few.
Later, the president spoke with French President Hollande and offered condolence.
And this evening, Hollande went on national television to pay tribute to the victims.
FRANCOIS HOLLANDE (through interpreter):
Today, they are our heroes. And that is why tomorrow will be a day of national mourning, a decreed day. At 12:00, there will be a moment of contemplation in all public services. And I invite all the population to be involved in it. The flags will be at half-staff for three days.
Meanwhile, thousands of people rallied near the site of the killings to honor the victims, and there similar rallies across Europe.
France also raised its alert status to the highest level, indicating another attack could be imminent.
We will talk more about Muslim extremism and the French news media after the news summary.
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