David Cameron’s long-awaited talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over EU reforms were overshadowed by tragic events in Paris yesterday, where hooded gunmen killed 12 people during an attack against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Speaking at the British Museum with Merkel, the PM said: “What has happened in Paris is an appalling terrorist outrage. We must never allow the values that we hold dear, of democracy, of freedom of speech to be damaged by these terrorists.” The UK has not raised its terror threat level, which remains at “severe.”
Chancellor Merkel echoed Cameron’s sentiments, adding: “All of us who live in Europe strongly condemn these attacks… This is an attack against the values we all hold dear, values by which we stand, values of freedom of the press, freedom in general and the dignity of man.”
The brutal killing of 10 journalists and two police officers prompted outrage around the world, with shows of solidarity in Place de la Republique in Paris, Trafalgar Square, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires among many others.
Italian PM Matteo Renzi said: “Violence will always lose out against freedom.” Spain’s Mariano Rajoy offered “condolences to the French people and the victims.”
The attackers, brandishing AK-47 assault rifles, entered the central Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and gunned down many members of its staff. The attack is believed to be in revenge for the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
The gunmen are said to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” – or God is Greatest in Arabic – then fled in a car. Late last night the French police had identified the gunmen and were launching search operations in Reims, north-east of Paris.
Among those killed were the magazine’s editor and cartoonist, Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb; Bernard Maris, the magazine’s deputy editor, and three cartoonists; Jean Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac, known as Tignous.
Five people were also seriously wounded in the attack.
In Trafalgar Square, thousands of Londoners took part in a moving vigil last night, many raising pens silently towards the sky in a show of support for the victims.
Political leaders and editors from around the world have condemned the violent attack, with US President Barack Obama calling the shooting “cowardly and evil”.
He added: “The fact that this was an attack on journalists, attack on our free press, also underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom – of speech and freedom of the press.”
French President Francois Hollande has declared a day of mourning for today and vowed to bring the attackers to justice. “Our best weapon is our unity,” Hollande said last night.
“Nothing can divide us, nothing should separate us.”