OSLO — World leaders expressed outrage over the attack on a French magazine office in Paris which killed at least 12 people, with several countries calling emergency meetings of anti-terrorism officials to review security.
Witnesses said that two hooded people entered the offices of the weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, shooting at random and at least one shouting “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” in Arabic.
“I strongly condemn the horrific shooting,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in White House statement. “France is America’s oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world.”
The last major terrorist attacks in France were a series of bombings between July and October 1995, including the Saint Michel metro station in the heart of Paris. Eight were killed and about 200 were injured in the attacks that were blamed on an Algerian rebel group.
Obama said the United States is in touch with French officials and “I have directed my administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.”
The U.S. embassy in Paris put a profile picture on its Twitter feed with the words “I am Charlie” in French.
“Today’s murders are part of a larger confrontation, not between civilizations, no, but between civilization itself and those who are opposed to a civilized world,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Washington.
In Costa Rica, President Luis Guillermo Solís released a statement saying, “I emphatically condemn the terrorist attack that this morning caused 12 deaths in Paris. This act is inexcusable, unjustifiable and should be absolutely rejected. I send my condolences to the French people.”
In a statement on Facebook, Solís added that, “Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right. Nothing justifies that it be limited, much less that terror is spread to circumvent [that right].”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the attack a “horrendous, unjustifiable and cold-blooded crime.”
“It was also a direct assault on the cornerstone of democracy, on the media and freedom of expression,” Ban said. “This horrific attack is meant to divide. We must not fall into that trap.”
Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers Britain condemns the “barbaric” attack and that “this country stands united with the French people in its opposition to all forms of terrorism.”
“We must never allow the values that we hold dear, of democracy, of freedom of speech to be damaged by these terrorists,” Cameron said Wednesday in London after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
There’s no change to Britain’s terror threat assessment, Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London. “As well as security permanently being under review, if there are any particular lessons that can be learned, they will be,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the “cynical crime,” and said his country remains ready to continue active cooperation in combating the threat of terrorism, according to an emailed statement from the Kremlin.
Russia believes no single country can effectively fight terrorism and such efforts require a deeper international strategic partnership, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Interfax.
Merkel said “this heinous act is not only an attack on the life of French citizens and the internal security of France.”
“It also represents an attack on freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, a core element of our liberal democratic culture, that is completely unjustifiable,” Merkel said.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere offered to assist France and said there’s “no concrete evidence” of plans for similar terrorist attacks in Germany. “The situation is serious, there is reason for concern and for caution, but not for panic,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the “despicable” attack in Paris on Twitter. “Our solidarity with people of France,” he wrote.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said the world must close ranks in the fight against terrorism.
“We must not allow terror and terrorists to terrorize the free world,” Liberman said in a text message. “The Western world must stand united and firm against this danger.”
“My firm condemnation of the terrorist attack in Paris and my condolences and solidarity with the French people for the victims. Spain with France,” Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy commented on Twitter.
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz was scheduled to meet heads of police, the civil guard and intelligence agencies, the government said in an emailed statement. Fernández Díaz will hold a press conference at about 7:30 p.m. local time Wednesday.
Italy convened its anti-terror committee to meet Wednesday, the Ansa news agency reported. The committee will examine the terrorist threat in light of the Paris attack, Ansa said.
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said “I interpret this as an attack on Europe’s fundamental values — democracy and freedom of speech.” She spoke at a news conference in Warsaw.
Leaders in the Nordic region, home in recent years to the controversy over Muhammad cartoons and the 2011 massacre of 77 people by right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, condemned the shootings.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg called the act “tragic and cowardly” and her Danish counterpart, Helle Thorning Schmidt, said defenseless and innocent people have become victims in an attack on “freedom of expression.”
Finnish Premier Alexander Stubb said “freedom of expression and a free press are integral elements of European values,” while Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem said that freedom of the press and expression must be “defended in all possible ways” after this “horrific” attack.
Contributors: Jeanette Rodrigues in New Delhi, Christian Wienberg in Copenhagen, Macarena Munoz and Esteban Duarte in Madrid, Lenka Ponikelska in Prague, Kevin Costelloe in Rome, Elizabeth Wasserman in Washington, Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg, Konrad Krasuski in Warsaw, Rainer Buergin in Berlin, Svenja O’Donnell and Thomas Penny in London and Sangwon Yoon in United Nations.
© 2015, Bloomberg News