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France Reacts to Charlie Hebdo Terror: Thousands Rally, “This is Our September 11”

French President François Hollande called yesterday’s attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed twelve a “terrorist attack” as thousands rallied in the streets of Paris and one French politician called the attack “our September 11.”

In addition to declaring three days of mourning Hollande vowed to bring the killers to justice. A statement Hollande released read in part:

An act of exceptional barbarism has been committed in Paris against a newspaper. A paper, in other words, an organ of free speech. An act against journalists who had always wanted to show that in France it was possible to defend one’s ideas, and exercise their rights that are guaranteed and protected by the Republic.

“Police were on hand to protect them, and they too have been gunned down, killed in a cowardly fashion, at the moment when I speak to you [12] lives have been lost, four are in a critical condition, and we still do not know the final cost of this tragedy. We have been able to get 40 people out to safety, and we have set in motion the anti-terrorist plan used in major incidents.

“The people responsible for this are now hunted men. They will be hunted for as long as it takes. They will be arrested and face justice for their crime.

“Today France is in shock; the shock of a multiple assassination, a terrorist attack. That much is clear; Charlie Hebdo had received threats in the past, and was under police protection. We must all stand together at this difficult time. We must show we are a united country. We know how we must react, and our response will be firm, always taking into account that national unity.

Agence France-Presse reported that tens of thousands rallied in Place de la Republique in Paris in horror over the terror attack. Twenty thousand people were also reported to have rallied in the French cities of Lyon and Toulouse. (In 2012 a rabbi and three children were killed at a Jewish day school in Toulouse by a French Muslim.)

Demonstrators wore black stickers marked “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), a slogan aimed at showing solidarity with the victims of the deadliest attack in France in decades.

Others waved banners with slogans such as “Press freedom has no price” and “Charb mort libre” (Charb died free), a reference to the newspaper’s slain editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier.

A French-Jewish politician called the attack “our September 11.”

French Jewish parliamentarian Meyer Habib said Wednesday’s massacre of 12 cartoonists, policemen and others by gunmen at a Paris newspaper was France’s equivalent of the September 11 terror attacks and that jihadi terrorists want “to destroy the entire infrastructure of France.”

“This is a very sad day. This is our September 11,” Habib said.

Three suspects were named and two remain at large as France has issued an “Attack Alert” the highest level of its terror alert system. In addition authorities have suggested that there could be an Al Qaeda link to the terrorists. The Associated Press reports:

French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, should be considered armed and dangerous, according to a police bulletin released early Thursday. Mourad Hamyd, 18, surrendered at a police station in Charleville-Mezieres, a small town in France’s eastern Champagne region, said Paris prosecutor’s spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre. She did not offer details on Hamyd’s relationship to the men, but said he turned himself in because he heard his name on the news in connection with the attack. …

One police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing, said they were linked to a Yemeni terrorist network, and Cedric Le Bechec, a witness who encountered the escaping gunmen, quoted the attackers as saying: “You can tell the media that it’s al-Qaida in Yemen.”

[Photo: FRANCE 24 English / YouTube ]