US President Barack Obama condemned the “horrific” assault on a French satirical newspaper that left 12 dead Wednesday, condemning “cowardly evil attacks” on journalists and a free press, and vowing to help France bring the terrorists to justice.
“We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice,” Obama said.
Speaking in French, US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is a frequent visitor to Paris on his diplomatic travels, said he wanted to address all French people directly about the “murderous attack” to say “All Americans stand by your side.”
The “pen is an instrument of freedom, not fear,” Kerry said.
“Free expression and a free press are core values… principles that can be attacked but never eradicated.”
Gunmen shouting Islamist slogans stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris, armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and a grenade launcher.
Hours after the shooting, an Islamic State fighter praised the assault, asserting that the attack had come as revenge for insults against Islam, according to Reuters.
“The lions of Islam have avenged our Prophet,” Abu Mussab, a Syrian who fights with the Islamic State, told Reuters.
“These are our lions. It’s the first drops — more will follow… let these crusaders be scared because they should be,” he said, adding that the gunmen who carried out the attack were “on the path of the emir …. and our Sheikh Osama [bin Laden].”
The weekly’s editor Stephane Charbonnier, and three renowned cartoonists including Georges Wolinski were among those killed, officials said.
Charlie Hebdo had attracted controversy by publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
“I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people,” the US President said.
Obama praised France as a partner “in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time,” he said.
“Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended.
“France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers.”
Obama’s White House has not always been so supportive of Charlie Hebdo, however, and in September 2012 criticized its decision to go ahead and publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
“We don’t question the right of something like this to be published. We just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it,” then White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Carney was speaking at a time of heightened tension when US embassies in the Muslim world had come under attack by locals angered by the portrayal of their religion in Western media.
Still, on Wednesday, US officials were unanimous in their condemnation of the attack and in their solidarity with France.
The US embassy in Paris symbolically changed its Twitter profile picture to a newly popular slogan inspired by the attack: “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).
Kerry also vowed that “the murderers dare proclaim Charlie Hebdo is dead, but make no mistake — they are wrong.”
“Today, tomorrow, in Paris, in France, the freedom of expression that this magazine … represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”
Senator Dick Durbin, speaking in the Senate, also slipped into French after recalling France’s support for the United States in the wake of the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attack on US cities.
“A ce moment tragique, nous sommes tous Parisiens, nous sommes tous Francais,” he said. (At this tragic moment, we are all Parisians, we are all French.)
In earlier television interviews, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest cautioned that the attack was still in the initial stages of investigation.
“We’re at the very early stages of what happened and who was responsible,” Earnest said. He added that it is well that there are “strong ties” between the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Islamic State extremists.
“We obviously are trying to monitor what we consider to be a very important threat,” he said.
“This is an attack on the basic freedoms of freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Earnest said.
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