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Manhunt underway after gunmen kill 12 at satirical magazine in Paris

With reporting from James Valles

PARIS, FRANCE (BNO NEWS) -- An intense manhunt is underway for up to three gunmen who shot and killed at least a dozen people, most of them journalists, at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, authorities said on Wednesday.

The attack began just before noon local time when three heavily-armed gunmen entered Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris and opened fire. Police said at least 12 people were killed in the shootings, including journalists and two police officers, while several others were critically wounded.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier, was among the dead, along with three other well-known cartoonists, reports said. French President Francois Hollande called the rampage "a terrorist attack” and vowed to find those responsible.

“This is an act of exceptional barbarism that has just happened here, in Paris, against a newspaper. Journalists and security personnel were cowardly assassinated,” Hollande said at the scene. He said a manhunt was underway to arrest those responsible and to bring them to justice.

“We will track them down as long as it takes so that they can be brought to justice,” Hollande added. “Today, France is experiencing a tremendous shock. This is a terrorist attack, there is no doubt about it. It targeted the newspaper that had been threatened several times and it was under protection.”

The gunmen dressed in all black, who were captured on video by witnesses, were armed with automatic weapons and wore masks as they carried out the massacre. In one of the videos which was posted online, a gunman is seen shooting an injured police officer in the head as he laid on a sidewalk.

The gunmen, who are heard shouting “Allahu Akbar!” in one of the videos, fled the scene in a small black vehicle that was later found abandoned elsewhere. Police and forensic experts were seen examining the vehicle as the manhunt got underway, though the identities of the attackers are not yet known.

The weekly newspaper has received death threats in the past for its controversial cartoons. The magazine was forced to step up its security in November 2011 after its offices were fire-bombed and its website was hacked in retribution for its satirical commentary and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

France’s security alert was raised to the highest level following Wednesday’s attack and the cabinet convened for an emergency meeting to discuss the government’s response. Hollande is expected to address the nation at 8 p.m. local time.

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