(Bloomberg) — World leaders expressed outrage over the killing of at least 12 people at a French magazine office in Paris, 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,” 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.”
France deployed thousands of police to protect train stations, airports, schools and cultural sites as the hunt intensified for the killers. The country was put on the highest terrorist alert after one of its deadliest attacks since World War II, with protection extended to places of worship and media outlets.
Obama said the U.S. 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.
In Berlin, about 500 people gathered in front of the French embassy next to the Brandenburg Gate. Many placed flowers and candles at the embassy’s main entrance.
“It’s good to have a place to mourn together,” said Lisa Chalvet, who arrived in Berlin nine months ago to work at the embassy.
“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.
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.”
‘Oil on Fire’
The French Council of the Muslim Religion condemned the “barbaric” attack and called on “all those committed to the values of the Republic and democracy to avoid provocations that only serve to throw oil on the fire.”
France has Europe’s largest Muslim population of more than 5 million people out of a total population of about 65 million.
Germany’s Central Council of Muslims termed the killings an “abhorrent terrorist attack” in a statement on its website. “There is not a fragment of justification in any religion or world view for such acts,” the German Muslim group said.
“Our beliefs have been betrayed and our Muslim principles have been dragged through the mud,” according to the German Central Council of Muslims statement. There about 4 million Muslims living in Germany out of a total population of 81 million.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the killings.
“We strongly condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and reiterate our repudiation of any such assault on freedom of speech, even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures,” Nihad Awad, the group’s national executive director, said in a website statement.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers he 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 today in London after meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
There’s no change to U.K.’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 e-mailed 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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “the attacks of radical Islam know no boundaries.”
“All free countries and all the civilized societies have to band together to fight this scourge,” Netanyahu said in an e-mailed statement.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy commented on Twitter: “Spain with France.”
Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz is meeting heads of police, the civil guard and intelligence agencies, the government said in an e-mailed statement.
Italy is convening its anti-terror committee to meet today, the Ansa news agency reported. The committee will examine the terrorist threat in light of the Paris attack, Ansa said.