UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Jan 07

7 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo shooting


What happened?

On 7 January 2015, two masked gunmen barged into the office of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Paris and shot dead 12 people injuring many others.

Background

  • Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical weekly newspaper that predominantly publishes cartoons, jokes and reports which are in the nature of satire. It is non-conformist and is secularist and left-wing. It targets religions and religious heads and mocks Catholicism, Islam and Judaism.
  • The weekly was in circulation from 1969 to 1981 and then restarted from 1992 onwards.
  • Cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier was its editor-in-chief since 2009 until he was killed in the attacks. He was on the Al-Qaeda hit list.
  • On 7 January 2015, two hooded armed men entered the office of the newspaper at around 11:30 am and started spraying bullets. They were carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles.
  • The first victim was a maintenance worker who was sitting at the reception. The attackers then entered the second floor-office where the staff was having a meeting. They then asked for Charbonnier who was identified and shot at. They continued gunning for about ten minutes.
  • After that, they escaped from the office building and also killed a police officer on the way.
  • A total of 12 people were killed and 11 others were injured.
  • The French government raised security and started a massive man-hunt for the terrorists, who were identified as Chérif Kouachi and Saïd Kouachi, brothers who were born in Paris to Algerian immigrants. They are believed to have been affiliated with the Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
  • They were killed in an encounter with the French authorities on 9 January when they were trying to escape.
  • After the attacks there was a wave of support for the magazine from different quarters. Lakhs of people in France and elsewhere showed their support and the common phrase being used was ‘Je suis Charlie’ meaning ‘I am Charlie’.
  • The motive for the attacks was the weekly’s frequent satirical depictions of Prophet Muhammad.
  • The attackers also found support from some quarters who argues that it was not correct for the magazine to insult a religion.
  • Opinion was divided worldwide with some supporting the magazine for freedom of expression and others condemning the magazine for misusing that freedom, while at the same time, reproving violence as an answer for anything. Some others went so far as to say that the killings were justified.
Also on this day

2016: Death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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