12 dead in attack on Paris newspaper; France goes on alert

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Updated 08 January 2015

12 dead in attack on Paris newspaper; France goes on alert

PARIS: Masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a satirical newspaper Wednesday, killing 12 people before escaping. It was France’s deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.
With a manhunt on, French President Francois Hollande called the attack on the Charlie Hebdo weekly, whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammed have frequently drawn condemnation from Muslims, “a terrorist attack without a doubt.” He said several other attacks have been thwarted in France “in recent weeks.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed killed 12 people, including cartoonists.
France raised its security alert to the highest level and reinforced protective measures at houses of worship, stores, media offices and transportation. Top government officials were holding an emergency meeting and Hollande planned a nationally televised address in the evening. Schools closed their doors.
World leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attack, but supporters of the militant Islamic State group celebrated the slayings as well-deserved revenge against France.
The Islamic State group has repeatedly threatened to attack France. Just minutes before the attack, Charlie Hebdo had tweeted a satirical cartoon of that extremist group’s leader giving New Year’s wishes. Another cartoon, released in this week’s issue and entitled “Still No Attacks in France,” had a caricature of an extremist fighter saying “Just wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.”
Just before noon, multiple masked men armed with automatic weapons attacked the newspaper’s office in central Paris, nearby worker Benoit Bringer told the iTele network. The attackers went to the second floor and started firing indiscriminately in the newsroom, said Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders.
“This is the darkest day of the history of the French press,” DeLoire said.
Video images on the website of public broadcaster France Televisions showed two gunmen in black at a crossroads who appeared to fire down one of the streets. A cry of “Allahu akbar!” — Arabic for “God is great“— could be heard among the gunshots.
Luc Poignant of the SBP police union said the attackers left in a waiting car and later switched to another vehicle that had been stolen.
Obama’s top spokesman said US officials have been in close contact with the French since the attack. “We know they are not going to be cowed by this terrible act,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.
On social media, supporters of militant Islamic groups praised the move. One Twitter user who identified themselves as a Tunisian loyalist of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group called the attack well-deserved revenge against France.
Elsewhere on the Internet, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie was trending as people expressed support for weekly and for journalistic freedom.
Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly threatened for its caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and other controversial sketches. Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after a spoof issue featuring a caricature of the prophet on its cover. Nearly a year later, the publication again published crude Muhammad caricatures, drawing denunciations from around the Muslim world.
Wednesday’s attack comes the same day of the release of a book by a celebrated French novelist depicting France’s election of its first Muslim president. Hollande had been due to meet with the country’s top religious officials later in the day.


Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

Updated 19 January 2020

Hong Kong police fire tear gas to break up anti-government protest

  • Hong Kong police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march
  • The protests had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks

HONG KONG: Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.
In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.