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This Day in History: 07 January, 2015

This Day in History: 07 January, 2015

On Wednesday, January 07, 2015, at around 11:30 in the morning, two armed men burst into the office of satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, shooting and killing 12 members of the editorial team.

The assailants were two brothers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, French citizens born in France to Algerian immigrant parents. They attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in retaliation to the publication's irreverent approach to Islam.

In 2013, newspaper editor Stéphane "Charb" Charbonnier was quoted as saying "We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism."

Charb was later placed on an Al-Qaeda hit list, along with Kurt Westergaard, Carsten Juste, and Flemming Rose, staff members of Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the central figure in Islam in 2005. Charlie Hebdo republished these cartoons, as well as other cartoons depicting the Prophet. The newspaper received threats, and its offices firebombed and website hacked.

As a result of the firebomb in 2012, the publication had moved into an unmarked office in a building in Paris' 11th arrondissement. Staff were in the midst of their first editorial meeting for 2015 when the Kouachi brothers burst in. They called for Charbonnier by name, before shooting him. Their shooting rampage claimed the lives of 12 Charlie Hebdo staffers, and injured 11.

A manhunt was launched for the shooters, and it took police two days before they found them. In those two days, the brothers caused panic in Paris, robbing a petrol station and taking hostages at a signage production company in Dammartin-en-Goële. While the brothers were engaged with police in Dammartin-en-Goële, an associate of theirs, Amedy Coulibaly, took hostages at a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes in east Paris.

Coulibaly was believed to have been in contact with the brothers during their siege and threatened to kill his hostages if police harmed them. The brothers were shot by police when they exited the office and opened fire on police. Coulibaly was shot by police just minutes later. Chérif and Saïd had expressed the desire to die as martyrs. None of the hostages in either siege was harmed.

The brothers identified themselves as being part of an Al-Qaeda branch in Yemen, known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and on January 9, the group claimed responsibility for the attack, citing avenging the honour of Muhammad as the motive.

On January 11, nearly two million people, including French president François Hollande, along with more than 40 world leaders led a rally in Paris promoting national unity and commemorating those who died in the attacks.

Other rallies were held across the world, with the phrase 'Je suis Charlie' embodying the world's stance against terrorism.

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