On January 7, 2015, two masked Islamist gunmen launched a paramilitary attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper. They killed twelve people, among them the paper’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier (also known as “Charb"), while leaving others wounded. The dead included two police officers as well as ten Charlie Hebdo staff. Four of the victims, including Charbonnier, were much-loved though often taboo-busting and controversial cartoonists.
The gunmen, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, were killed in a shoot-out with police two days later. In a related episode, another gunman, identified as Amedy Coulibaly, took hostages in a kosher grocery store in Paris. Four hostages were killed before the siege was ended by police but so, for better or worse, was the gunman. Coulibaly was likely responsible for the earlier killings of a Parisian policewoman and a suburban jogger. By the time this article is published, more details will be known—but I fear more such attacks will have occurred.
Even as I’ve drafted these paragraphs, the Hamburger Morgenpost, a German regional newspaper that reprinted cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, has been firebombed. Fortunately, there was no loss of life this time and relatively little property damage. That’s some small comfort.