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Two years after attacks, Charlie Hebdo sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

The slogan “Je Suis Charlie” was quickly picked up as an estimated one million people marched in a mass outpouring of solidarity in Paris, and it soon became a rallying cry for freedom of expression around the world.

world Updated: Jan 06, 2017 01:31 IST
Charlie Hebdo,Charlie Hebdo attacks,Paris terror attack
A man walks past a tribute to a slain police officer not far from the old offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine where two brothers armed with assault rifles shot and killed 11 people, including most of the publication's cartoonists and writers, on January 7, 2015, as France pays tribute two years later in Paris on Thursday.(Reuters)

The editor of Charlie Hebdo believes the world has become less tolerant of the French satirical newspaper’s black humour but he staunchly defends the right to offend, two years after jihadist gunmen killed many of its staff.

Charlie Hebdo marked the grim anniversary in typical style with a front-cover cartoon showing a laughing man staring down the barrel of a jihadist’s AK47 rifle with the caption: “2017, at last, the light at the end of the tunnel.”

On January 7, 2015, in an attack that tore the heart out of the paper, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi forced their way into the low-key Paris office building where it was based and killed 11 people, including star cartoonists Cabu, Charb, Wolinski and Tignous.

The slogan “Je Suis Charlie” was quickly picked up as an estimated one million people marched in a mass outpouring of solidarity in Paris, and it soon became a rallying cry for freedom of expression around the world.

The newspaper had long been a target for Islamic extremists because it was one of a handful of European publications that printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Riss, the man who took over from Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier as editor following the attack, now wonders how much support he would get if he repeated that controversial move now.

“We get the impression that people have become even more intolerant of Charlie,” he told AFP.

“If we did a front cover showing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed now, who would defend us?”

Republican guards stand outside the Hyper Cacher supermarket ahead of a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the deadly attack against the store in Paris on January 5, 2017. (AFP)

‘More threats’

Riss, whose real name is Laurent Sourisseau, said the number of threats received by the staff was increasing.

“Before they told us to be careful of Islamists. Now we must look out for Islamists, Russians and Turks,” he said.

That was partly a reference to a protest from Russian President Vladimir Putin over a cartoon Charlie Hebdo published in December after dozens of members of a Red Army choir were killed in a plane crash.

It showed a choir member in uniform singing the wailing sound “AAAAA” as the plane plunges, under the title: “The Red Army choir’s repertoire is expanding.”

The anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo murders was marked on Thursday -- two days early -- in low-key ceremonies in Paris led by the city’s mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The killings continued after the attack on the offices.

One of the Kouachi brothers shot dead a policeman in cold blood as the officer lay injured on the pavement.

As the Kouachis went on the run, another France-based jihadist, Amedy Coulibaly, took up the baton by first killing a policewoman and then taking hostage Jewish shoppers in a kosher supermarket. He killed four men before police stormed the building and shot him dead.

District mayor Francois Vauglin, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, French interior minister Bruno Leroux and state secretary in charge of victims Juliette Meadel stand at attention at the place of the attacks of Charlie Hebdo to mark the second anniversary of the attack on Thursday. (AP)

The Kouachi brothers, who carried out the attack in the name of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, were themselves killed in a shootout with police after a siege northeast of Paris.

The man said to have inspired the Charlie Hebdo killers, Farid Benyettou, this week published a book about what he says is his move away from extremism, called: “My jihad, the journey of a reformed character.”

For the first time, he admitted in interviews that he was partly to blame for the bloodshed.

“I share part of the responsibility, I can’t deny it,” the 35-year-old said in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper on Thursday.

Amid the soul-searching in the aftermath of the attack, Charlie Hebdo made millions from the sales of special editions and used some of the proceeds to launch a German-language edition last year.

First Published: Jan 05, 2017 21:22 IST