DetailsÂ began to surface onÂ Wednesday when it became clear thatÂ the three men suspected of the terribleÂ attack on the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, which left 10 journalists and two police officers dead.
TwoÂ officials familiar with the matter identified the suspects as the brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, and a third man, Hamyd Mourad. French authorities soonÂ confirmed the names.
However, it’s still little known about the backgrounds of the attackers.
Cherif Kouachi, 32, the younger brotherÂ of 34-year-old Said Kouachi, back inÂ 2008 was convictedÂ for criminal association with a terrorist enterprise. HeÂ spentÂ 18 months in jail for his involvement in a Paris-based cell that trafficked French Muslims to fight in Iraq.
The yonger sibling, Hamyd Mourad, 18, turned himself in to police after authorities identified the three men wanted in connection with the attack.
French police spokeswoman AgnĂ¨s Thibault-Lecuivre revealed to reporters thatÂ Mourad walked into a police station about 145 miles northeast of Paris and surrendered.Â âHe introduced himself and was put in custody,â Thibault-Lecuivre told the newspaper.
SeveralÂ gunmen intruded intoÂ the offices of the Charlie Hebdo weekly in Paris on Wednesday and opened fire during an editorial meeting. The attack claimed lives ofÂ Charlie Hebdo’s publisher, StĂŠphane Charbonnier, and his police bodyguard. Economist and journalist Bernard Maris, who was a contributor to the weekly, and cartoonists Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac were also killed in the attack.
WitnessesÂ told police that one of the gunmen shouted “we have avenged the prophet.” Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Corinne Rey assured that the killersÂ spoke in fluent French and claimed to represent al Qaeda.
Police union spokesman Christophe Crepin, the gunmen knew exactly whom they wanted to target. They “went straight for Charb and his police bodyguard, killing both immediately with automatic weapons, then firing on others.”
French President Francois Hollande declaredÂ the killingsÂ “a terrorist attack without a doubt,” and announcedÂ a day of national mourning on Thursday. The French leader vowed that the attack would not silence freedom of the press in the country.
HeavyÂ crowdsÂ gathered in the French capitalÂ that eveningÂ to condemn the attack and pay tribute to the killed people. Demonstrators were seen holding up pens as a symbol of support for the slain journalists. According to French newspaper Le Monde, the number of people in the streets topped 15,000.
U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the attack in a statement on Wednesday as “cowardly” and “evil” and said the American government would “provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called theÂ assault “an attack on freedom of speech and the press.” She added, “This abominable act is not only an attack on the lives of French citizens and their security.” Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his condolences to the victims’ loved ones and all Parisians.