Charlie Hebdo returns with forgiving message
BARELY a week after its deadliest terror attack in decades, France continued to mourn for the 17 victims who died during the three days of bloodshed in Paris, while its government led by President Francois Hollande promised to fortify the nation’s security against extremists and revitalize its people.
France will be “merciless in the face of anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim acts, and unrelenting against those who defend and carry out terrorism, notably the jihadists who go to Iraq and Syria,” Hollande vowed.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, “serious and very high risks remain” and warned the French not to let down their guard, declaring a new “war against terrorism.” He also called for new, stronger surveillance of imprisoned radicals, and told the interior minister to propose further steps for national security.
Reports have emerged that the weapons used by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, including the Kouachi brothers, who led the Jan. 7 deadly attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, came from outside the country.
French authorities were working to trace the source of the weapons’ funding from abroad. Meanwhile in Bulgaria, a prosecutor announced that a Frenchman already in custody had ties to one of the Kouachi brothers. Fritz-Joly Joachin, 29, allegedly linked to a terrorist organization, was arrested as he tried to cross into Turkey.
Cherif and Said Kouachi and their accomplice, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four hostages in a Jewish grocery store, were killed Friday, Jan. 9 in coordinated police raids at different Paris locations. All three claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East—the Kouachi brothers to al-Qaeda in Yemen, and Coulibaly to the militant Islamic State group ISIS.
Police say that as many as six members of the terrorist cell that carried out the Paris attacks may still be at large, including a man seen driving a car registered to the widow of one of the gunmen. France has deployed thousands of troops to protect sensitive sites, including Jewish schools and synagogues, mosques, and travel hubs.
A surveillance video emerged Tuesday, Jan. 13 reportedly showing Coulibaly’s girlfriend, Hayat Boumediene, slipping into Turkey a few days before Coulibaly killed five people, including a French police officer, in a synchronized attack with the Charlie Hebdo magazine. Boumediene later crossed into Syria on Jan. 8, the same day her boyfriend shot the officer, and her whereabouts are still unknown.
“Je suis Charlie”
Francois Hollande, once seen as a “soft” and unpopular president, appeared at the forefront of a major unity rally in Paris on Sunday, Jan. 11, where millions including more than 40 world leaders gathered for a ceremonial march honoring the massacre victims and showing solidarity.
“Our great and beautiful France will never break, will never yield, never bend,” he declared.
Hollande was called the “father of the nation” for his leadership in handling the terror attacks, his comforting image through hard times, and for uniting world leaders together at the march.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13 at the Paris police headquarters, the French president paid separate tribute to the three fallen police officers, placing Legion of Honor medals on their caskets.
“They died so that we could live free,” he said, flanked by hundreds of police officers.
All over the world, rallies and marches were held showing support for France, the fallen victims, and for Charlie Hebdo. London projected the French red, white and blue colors on its London Eye ferris wheel and on the Tower Bridge. In Washington, thousands took part in a silent march through the US capital organized by the French Embassy. Brussels, Vienna and Rome held large public demonstrations in their downtown squares. In Berlin, 18,000 people gathered by the French embassy next to Brandenburg Gate, holding signs that read “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) or “Je suis Juif” (I am a Jew).
“[The worldwide rallies] shows that we should not be afraid, and we will not allow these terrorists to divide our societies,” said Marieke Zwarter, a 24-year-old Dutch university student studying in Berlin.
Even in Israel, where many Israelis sympathize with France because both countries have long histories of battling Islamic militant groups, hundreds of people gathered at a memorial ceremony at Jerusalem’s City Hall to express their solidarity with France and the French Jewish community. The city hoisted 1,500 French flags and set up a makeshift memorial downtown. Four of the victims in Paris were Jewish.
Even the staff at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo showed a renewed, emboldened strength in the wake of the Islamic terror attacks. On Jan. 13, it unveiled the cover of its latest edition showing a weeping Prophet Mohammad holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign under a banner reading “All is forgiven,” a phrase one writer said meant to show that the survivors forgave the gunmen.
“I think that those who have been killed, if they were here, they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to them, ask them why they have done this,” Zineb El Rhazoui, a columnist for the magazine, said. “We feel, as Charlie Hebdo’s team, that we need to forgive the two terrorists who have killed our colleagues.”
The controversial weekly magazine has become a worldwide symbol of freedom of expression and is preparing a print run of three million copies with the latest cover.
(With reports from AP, ABC News, BBC, and Agence France-Presse)
(LA Midweek January 14-16, 2015 Sec. A pg.1)