Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stéphane Charbonnier, also known as Charb, appeared on a hit list in the March 2013 issue of al-Qaeda’s Inspire propaganda magazine. Twitter accounts posted the same picture on Wednesday, but with a huge red X over Charbonnier’s picture.
— Ian Geldard (@igeldard) January 8, 2015
The resurfacing of the Inspire hit list on social media, particularly in jihadist social media circles, seems to indicate that jihadists are keen on intimidating the other individuals who appeared on the list, as well as implying that this is the first in a string of similar attacks against those who refuse to abide by the fundamentalist Islamist rules that numerous global jihadist groups intend to enforce.
Two gunmen murdered twelve people, including two police officers, at the satirical newspaper’s headquarters in Paris, France, on Wednesday. The gunmen specifically targeted the editorial meeting with the cartoonists due to cartoons of Muhammed they published. One gunman allegedly shouted at witnesses in the street to “tell the media that this is al-Qaeda in Yemen.” The group changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) a few years ago.
“At a minimum, this indicates AQAP and Inspire continue to have resonance,” stated Matthew Olsen, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “Whether these individuals were acting as AQAP or were inspired by them, it demonstrates the continued significance of AQAP and its propaganda.”
Charlie Hebdo printed twelve cartoons of Muhammed since 2007, which caused backlash and threats from al-Qaeda. The publication placed the headquarters and cartoonists under protection after the first threat.
“Charb was under special high-profile figure protection,” claimed Richard Malka, Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer. “The threats were constant. It is frightening.”
One journalist at Charlie Hebdo told French publication Le Monde that Charbonnier was not bothered by the threats. “Charb was under police protection but he moved around without his policemen, which was a sign he wasn’t worried all the time,” he said.
Despite the threats, Charbonnier continued to draw and publish cartoons. “I have been in this newspaper for 20 years, it has been 20 years that we have been provocative, it just so happens that every time we deal with radical Islam we have a problem and we get indignant violent reactions,” he told al-Jazeera. Charbonnier added:
But what surprises me is the reaction of French politicians: We are a country in the rule of law, we respect the French law. Our only limit is French law, it is that what we have to obey. We haven’t infringed the French law, we have the right to use our freedom, as we understand it.
French authorities identified the two gunmen as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi. Both men are still at large and allegedly robbed a gas station in northern France. Hamyd Mourad, their 18-year-old brother-in-law, turned himself in late Wednesday night.