Center for Strategic Communication

A video shot from the rooftop of a building near the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo that shows two jihadists in a firefight with police. Video from Charlie Boudot/Agence Premieres Lignes.

Unidentified terrorists killed 12 people and injured seven in an assault on the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier today. Gunmen armed with assault rifles shouted “‘we have avenged the prophet” and “Allahu akbar,” or God is greatest, as they stormed the headquarters of the magazine that has in the past published irreverent cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed and the emir of the Islamic State.

Just before noon, two gunmen with Kalashnikovs exited a black car and forced an employee of the magazine to let them into the building in central Paris. Once inside, witnesses say that the assailants deliberately targeted journalists, killing the publication’s editor and killing or wounding a number of cartoonists.

Two policemen were also killed in the attack, with video posted online showing the assailants wounding one officer and then executing him in the street as he raised his hands in submission. The attackers then entered a black getaway car and fled the scene before moving to a stolen car. The jihadists are still at large.

No group has claimed credit for today’s attack. Jihadists have a longstanding hatred of Charlie Hebdo, whose headquarters was firebombed in 2011 after the magazine published images of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb embedded in his turban. On Jan. 7, supporters of the Islamic State also expressed outrage after the magazine published a satirical cartoon of the group’s emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, expressing “best wishes” and good “health.” [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda and other jihadists repeatedly threatened French magazine.]

The attack appears to have been executed by hardened and well-trained fighters who may have received instructions at a training facility overseas, or locally in France. The attackers may also be ex-military.

The professionalism of the two attackers is seen in a brief video that shows the execution of one of the two French policemen on the street outside of Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters [the graphic video is reproduced below]. The video was captured by witnesses at the scene of the attack and was published on Liveleak.

The two attackers move in side-by-side formation and fire deliberately while shooting at a French police officer who is four to five car lengths away. After the officer is shot and downed, the two gunmen move quickly towards the policemen. One shoots and executes the officer in stride. Both men move past the body, peer up the street for additional targets, then peel off and move back to the black car and leave the scene of the attack.

The tactic of using heavily armed gunmen to attack well defended military targets or lightly defended civilian targets is commonly used by jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Taliban, and a host of allies in the war-torn countries of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria. But jihadist groups have also executed such attacks on civilians outside of war zones, including in Mumbai, India in 2008 and Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.

WARNING: The video below is extremely graphic and shows the execution of one of the French policemen. The video is reproduced to detail the professionalism shown by the gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters in Paris, France.

Sources: France24, AFP, BBC, CBS/AP, Liveleak