French PM: ‘Several arrests’ in search for shooters

The French prime minister says there have been “several arrests” in the search for two suspects in Wednesday’s shooting spree that left 12 people dead at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls told RTL radio Thursday that preventing a second attack is the government’s main concern.

While one person– 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad — surrendered to authorities late Wednesday, police are still searching for brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi. Both men are Paris residents in their 30s, and Cherif has previously spent time in prison on terrorism charges.

Police identified the suspects after one of them left his identity card in the getaway car after Wednesday’s killings at the office of the weekly satirical magazine known for cartoons that occasionally mock Muslim extremism.

Meanwhile, flags are flying at half-staff across France, as the nation observes a day of mourning for the victims.

The gunmen burst into the building Wednesday during an editorial meeting. Witnesses report hearing the masked gunmen shouting “God is great!” in Arabic as they entered the newsroom, but say they also spoke fluent French.

They were also heard shouting that they have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.

The dead include editorial director Stéphane Charbonnier and well-known cartoonists Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut and Bernard Verlhac, who went by the pen name Tignous. Two police officers also were killed. Eleven people were wounded.

Amateur video recorded near the office shows two men dressed in black rushing at a policeman on the street, and shooting him multiple times as he cries out and raises his hands.

France raised its terrorism alert to the highest level after the attack.

President Francois Hollande denounced the shootings as a terrorist attack and said several other terror plots have been foiled in recent weeks.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of cities across France to show support for the victims.

President Barack Obama joined several world leaders in offering condolences and condemning Wednesday’s attack.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said such violence should be a unifying force.

Muslim leaders in France also have denounced the shooting.

The motive behind the attack remains unclear, but the Wednesday shooting is not the first time Charlie Hebdo has been the target of violence.

Leaders in France and abroad pledged to resist terrorists.

“We were being threatened because we are a country of freedom. And because we are a country of freedom, we will fight against these threats and we will punish the aggressors,” said French President François Hollande.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the French not to give in to intimidation.

“Free expression and a free press are core values. They are universal values. Principles that can be attacked but never eradicated because brave and decent people around the world will never give in to the intimidation and the terror that those seeking to destroy those values employ,” said Kerry.

Christophe Deloire, Head of Reporters Without Borders, called Wednesday a “black day” for the French press.

“How can we imagine a worse attack when this editorial team, Charlie Hebdo, has already been threatened in the past. They’ve had very serious threats but nothing… there was never anything of this proportion. This attack againstCharlie Hebdo is maddening,” said Deloire.

Its office was firebombed in 2011 after publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

Shortly before Wednesday’s massacre, Charlie Hebdo published a satirical cartoon on social media depicting Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a New Year well-wisher.


(Manuel Valls. Photo: Clément Bucco-Lechat)