France victims buried as Charlie Hebdo hits back with Mohammed cartoon

13th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

Victims of a wave of Islamist attacks in France were being buried Tuesday as the Charlie Hebdo weekly hit back after the massacre of its staff with a front-page cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed under the banner: "All is forgiven".

Draped in the red, white and blue of France's flag, the coffins of three police officers killed during the attacks were carried at a solemn ceremony attended by President Francois Hollande as uniformed colleagues lined a large square of the police headquarters in Paris.

In Israel, thousands of mourners gathered at a cemetery for the funeral of four Jews gunned down in a Parisian supermarket in the coordinated three-day killing spree.

Seventeen people were slaughtered in the attacks that began with a jihadist assault on the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine last Wednesday and ended in a bloody hostage drama at a Jewish supermarket two days later.

The supermarket killer, Amedy Coulibaly, and the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who were also holed up with a hostage, were killed in quick succession in two police blitzes on Friday.

The magazine refused to be cowed by the attack that wiped out 10 members of staff. It prepared a cover for its next edition Wednesday showing a weeping Prophet Mohammed holding a sign with the now-famous phrase "Je suis Charlie".

It is the kind of goading content that has long drawn the ire of some Muslims because of the visual depiction of Mohammed. During their attack on the magazine, which also lampoons other religions, the gunmen proclaimed they were "avenging the prophet".

Charlie Hebdo, which has become the symbol of freedom of expression in the wake of the bloodshed, was preparing a massive print run of three million copies, compared to its usual 60,000.

It will appear in 16 languages and be sold in 25 countries.

- 'A military operation' -

France, which has Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish populations, was shaken to its core by the attacks, which prompted a historic outpouring of unity and saw nearly four million people rally across the country on Sunday.

Some 1.5 million crammed into the streets of Paris alone, but despite the defiant turnout the nation remained jittery and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced some 10,000 troops will be deployed to protect sensitive sites.

He said the deployment, in addition to another 5,000 police officers on the streets, was being handled like "a military operation".

"This is the first time that our troops have been mobilised to such an extent on our own soil," he said.

With tensions still high, Muslim community leaders have reported more than 50 incidents since the Charlie Hebdo assault, including apparent arson at a mosque in the city of Poitiers on Sunday.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls will on Tuesday address parliament on the country's response to the terror threat as attention turns to security failings that allowed men known to anti-terror police to slip through the cracks.

He said Monday he wanted to see an "improved" system of tapping phones.

- Security failings -

Valls has admitted there were "clear failings" after it emerged that the Kouachi brothers had been on a US terror watch list "for years".

Said Kouachi, 34, was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And 32-year-old Cherif was a known jihadist convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters from France to Iraq.

The brothers were behind the Charlie Hebdo attack that also left two policemen dead, before leading security forces on a massive manhunt that ended at a small printing business outside Paris where they took the manager hostage.

Police gunned them down after they emerged from the building spraying bullets in a final act of defiance.

Coulibaly, who shot and injured a jogger, gunned down a policewoman and then seized the kosher supermarket, claimed he had coordinated his acts with the brothers.

The repeat criminal offender had also been convicted for extremist activity and swore allegiance to the Islamic State group.

One of them, Ahmed Merabet, a 40-year-old Muslim, was coldly executed by the killers as he lay injured on a Paris sidewalk as they fled Charlie Hebdo's offices.

The other police officers killed were Franck Brinsolaro, 49, and Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 27.

In Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attending the funeral of Yoav Hattab, 22, Philippe Braham, 45, Yohan Cohen, 23, and Francois-Michel Saada, 64, who were killed at the kosher supermarket.

In chilling details of the hostage drama, one survivor told Europe 1 radio that one of the men was killed when he tried to snatch Coulibaly's weapon, while another was shot in the back as he tried to flee.

- Hunt goes on -

As investigators hunted for those who may have assisted the killers, images of Coulibaly's wanted partner Hayat Boumeddiene emerged at Istanbul airport accompanied by an unidentified man. She is believed to have entered Turkey before the attacks and went on to Syria.

"We think there are in fact probably accomplices," Valls told French radio. "The hunt will go on."

In Bulgaria it emerged a Frenchman arrested on January 1 trying to cross into Turkey was in contact with Cherif Kouachi.

France has been on high alert for several months over its citizens who go to fight alongside Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, some of who have been pictured in grisly execution videos.

Valls also said 1,400 people were known to have left to fight in Syria and Iraq, or were planning to do so. Seventy French citizens have died there.

The IS group has issued direct threats against France which is carrying out airstrikes against them in Iraq as part of a US-led coalition.


© 2015 AFP

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