Norwegian leaders including Prime Minister Erna Solberg were condemning a terrorist attack on a satire magazine in Paris on Wednesday, calling it both “tragic” and “cowardly.” Solberg said it was “an incredibly sad day.”
“This is an attack on freedom of expression, and it’s catastrophic that many died,” Solberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). At a hastily arranged meeting with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Solberg said that the attack shows how the risk of terrorism in Europe is high at present.
“But first and and foremost, our thoughts and sympathy go to the families of those who were killed and badly injured, and also to the French people and to French leaders who are in a very difficult situation,” Solberg said. “I am saddened and very shocked over what happened.”
Editorial staff targeted
French news bureau AFP reported the attack occurred just before noon, when masked men stormed into the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, where staffers were holding an editorial meeting to plan a special issue on Islam. The attack appeared well-planned, according to AFP, taking place as the meeting was underway and thus assuring that top editors and the artists that draw the magazine’s cartoon were in place. The attackers also reportedly knew their targets, calling them by name while gunning them down.
At least 12 people were killed in the attack, including the magazine’s editor in chief Stéphane Charbonnier, while many others were shot and badly injured. The gunmen, who reportedly cried that they’d won revenge for Allah and claimed they represented the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, also killed two police officers, executing one who already had been shot and injured by shooting him point blank in the head. The masked men then fled in a getaway car that was later found abandoned in northern Paris reported AFP. Police were searching for three suspects Wednesday afternoon.
‘Attack on our values’
Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre, who was Norway’s foreign minister when a Norwegian paper joined others abroad in running a controversial Danish cartoon depicted the Prophet Mohammed, also condemned the attack on Wednesday. Støre, who studied in Paris and speaks fluent French, claimed that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are among the most important values of a democracy and that media must not be scared into silence. Charlie Hebdo had also published the prophet cartoons and was known for satirizing all religions and political parties on both the right and the left.
Several other political leaders and Members of Parliament also condemned the attack, while the editorial departments of several newspapers including Aftenposten and Dagbladet boosted security. Vebjørn Selbekk, who chose to publish the prophet cartoon when he was editor of the Christian magazine Magazinet, likened the attack to a declaration of war on freedom of expression.
Selbekk, who now edits the Christian newspaper and website Dagen, sprang to national fame in Norway when he printed the highly controversial prophet cartoon on January 9, 2006. Many claimed the cartoon was hurtful and offensive to Muslims and Selbekk received death threats. “We see a new situation today, because this has now claimed its first victims,” he told NRK. “This means we as a society need to work even harder to support freedom of expression. The costs of that work are very high.”