This story is still developing but what we know so far is at least two masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. At least one of the dead is a policeman.
The gunmen shouted “we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”, witnesses say.
A major police operation is under way in the Paris area to catch the killers.
Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier were reported among those killed, as well as at least two police officers.
Mr Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.
French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski. Reports say the attack took place during the magazine’s daily editorial meeting.
The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was fire-bombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.
The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
A few initial thoughts.
Obviously our thoughts must be with the victims of this terrible tragedy. It almost seems incomprehensible that people can commit these acts. But I can’t help thinking that there will be more victims in the millions of innocent Muslims all over Europe who will now be targeted by the right wing. As any Irish person who lived in England during the 70’s and 80’s will know, even the most innocent get the blame for acts committed by a small number of your fellow countrymen. This week has seen mass rallies in Germany over ‘Islamisation’, and all over Europe there is a growing anti Muslim tide that will only be boosted by these attacks.
There is a lot of smartphone video coverage of the attack. You can even watch the poor policeman getting shot dead. Normally with these videos we would warn that ‘viewers might find scenes distressing’ but to be honest the whole thing has a surreal movie like quality to it. We have become so desensitised to violence that the distinction between reality and make believe has become blurred.