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France commemorates Charlie Hebdo attack victims, five years on

France commemorates Charlie Hebdo attack victims, five years on
Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Euronews with AFP
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France commemorated on Tuesday the cartoonists who were massacred by two gunmen at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris five years ago.


On Tuesday, France commemorated the cartoonists who were massacred by two gunmen at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris five years ago.

The attack on the weekly, which has a long history of mocking Islam and other religions, was the first in a series of assaults that have claimed more than 250 lives since January 7, 2015, mostly at the hands of young French-born jihadists.

It sent shockwaves through France, exposing divisions in the multicultural modern Republic and sparking an intense debate about Muslim integration and press freedom.

"Nothing will ever be as before", predicted Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo at the time of the attack.

The Kouachi brothers killed 12 people in their strike on Charlie Hebdo. They claimed to be avenging the magazine's publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which were deemed offensive by many Muslims.

"We avenged the Prophet Mohammed. We killed Charlie Hebdo!", they shouted triumphantly as they ran through the streets.

Within three days, the death toll in the rampage of the al-Qaeda-affiliated siblings and accomplice Amedy Coulibaly had risen to 17, including four people at a kosher supermarket and three police officers.

The Kouachis failed in their bid to "kill" Charlie Hebdo. Despite losing its top talent, the magazine remained afloat thanks to an outpouring of solidarity.

"I wanted the paper to continue to exist", said Pierrick Juin, a cartoonist who joined the magazine just months after the attack. "For me, it couldn't just stop like that because of what happened."

This week, the magazine published a defiant anniversary issue remembering the attack.

But the attacks did expose deep divisions in France: even a nationwide minute of silence observed by four million people under the slogan "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) could not project a nation united in mourning.

At the time, then prime minister Manuel Valls drew widespread criticism by linking the rise of extremism to France's "geographical, social and ethnic apartheid".

President Emmanuel Macron reprised the theme during his 2017 election campaign.

But despite his promise of ending the "house arrest" of young people trapped in high-rise suburban housing projects, the breeding grounds of several of French-born jihadists, their conditions remain largely unchanged.

A major Odoxa survey in November showed a majority of residents in housing projects still feeling abandoned by the state and discriminated against by employers.

Military presence in France was stepped up after the bloodshed of November 2015 and remains at a high level, with around 10,000 troops deployed.

France remains on its second-highest alert level, with sporadic attacks by individuals accused of having become radicalised continuing to claim lives.

In the latest deadly incident, a 22-year-old convert to Islam with psychological problems went on a stabbing rampage in a park near Paris on January 3, killing one man and injuring two women.


"After the January attacks, and t was true also after the attacks of November 2015, France was united, France defended its values, freedom, France rejected anti-Semitism, racism, stigmatisation", said former French president Francois Hollande at the commemorations.

"We must ensure that this message, which was expressed at that time, remains as strong as ever."

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