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Charlie Hebdo survivors produce defiant edition a week after attack

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 06:53
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The surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo will publish a defiant issue with a Prophet Mohammed cartoon on the cover on Wednesday, a week after jihadist gunmen killed 12 people at the satirical weekly's Paris office.

[PARIS] The surviving staff of Charlie Hebdo will publish a defiant issue with a Prophet Mohammed cartoon on the cover on Wednesday, a week after jihadist gunmen killed 12 people at the satirical weekly's Paris office.

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Tuesday declared a "war against terrorism" and, amid a national outpouring of emotion, a packed parliament sang a stirring rendition of the national "Marseillaise" anthem, a first since the end of World War I.

The special sitting came after President Francois Hollande led a solemn ceremony paying tribute to three police officers killed in France's bloodiest week in decades, while four Jews who were shot dead in one of the attacks in Paris were laid to rest in Israel.

"Our great and beautiful France will never break, will never yield, never bend" in the face of the Islamist threat that is "still there, inside and outside" the country, Hollande told weeping families and uniformed colleagues at the ceremony.

Equally defiant, the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly where the first attack took place last Wednesday unveiled the cover of its latest edition showing a weeping Prophet Mohammed holding a sign saying "Je Suis Charlie" under the banner "All Is Forgiven".

The cartoon has already been reproduced by papers around the world ahead of Wednesday's publication.

"Our Mohammed is above all just a guy who is crying," said cartoonist Renald Luzier, known as Luz, who escaped the attackers' bullets as he was late for work on the day they burst into an editorial meeting and mowed down the magazine's top staff.

"He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen." Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious centre of learning, warned that new cartoons would only serve to "stir up hatred".

The drawings "do not serve the peaceful coexistence between peoples and hinders the integration of Muslims into European and Western societies," the Cairo-based body's Islamic research centre said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Egypt's state-sponsored Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, said the latest cover of Charlie Hebdo was "an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims".

"This edition will result in a new wave of hatred in French and Western society. What the magazine is doing does not serve coexistence and the cultural dialogue Muslims aspire to," it said.

But French Muslim groups urged their communities to "stay calm and avoid emotive reactions" to the depiction of Mohammed, which many see as sacrilegious.

The controversial weekly, which lampoons everyone from the president to the pope, has become a symbol of freedom of expression in the wake of the bloodshed.

This week it is preparing a print run of three million copies, compared with its usual 60,000.

Charlie Hebdo has also put out a call for funding. The French Press and Pluralism media association said over a million euros (S$1.6 million) in donations had been raised within days.

France, home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, was shaken to the core by the attack in which two gunmen killed 12 people in the assault on Charlie Hebdo, while a third killed a policewoman and took hostages at a Jewish supermarket where another four people died.

The supermarket killer, Amedy Coulibaly, and the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, Said and Cherif Kouachi - who were working together - were killed in quick succession in two police blitzes on Friday.

Questions have risen over how the three men, who were known to French intelligence agents and been on a US terror watch list "for years" had slipped through the cracks.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, in a speech that drew several standing ovations, called for the intelligence capabilities and anti-terrorism laws to be strengthened after previously admitting to "clear failings" over the attackers.

"France is at war against terrorism, jihadism, radicalism. France is not at war against Islam and Muslims," Valls said.

"I don't want Jews in this country to be scared, or Muslims to be ashamed" of their faith, he added.

Underlining the ongoing security concerns, France's biggest satirical weekly, "Le Canard Enchaine", said it received a death threat the day after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The outpouring of shock and grief that has united France and saw some four million people march across the country on Sunday, continued Tuesday as several victims were buried.

At the main police headquarters in Paris, a grim-faced Hollande laid the country's highest decoration, the Legion d'Honneur, on the coffins of the three fallen police officers draped in the Tricolore.

Two were killed during the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the policewoman was gunned down by Coulibaly the next day when she arrived at the scene of a car accident in which he was involved. Many believe he was on his way to attack a Jewish school nearby.

"They died so that we could live in freedom," Hollande said.

In Israel, thousands of mourners gathered at the funeral of the four Jews killed when Coulibaly stormed a kosher supermarket before he was himself gunned down in a dramatic police assault.

The French attacks have sent shockwaves through Europe and beyond, German President Joachim Gauck told his country's Muslim community Tuesday that "we are all Germany" at a rally by 10,000 people to condemn the Paris jihadist attacks and take a stand against rising Islamophobia.

European Union counter-terrorism chief Gilles de Kerchove told AFP that jails had become "massive incubators" of radicalisation and there was no way to fully shield against such attacks.

Coulibaly, a repeat offender, met Cherif Kouachi in prison where they both fell under the spell of a renowned jihadist.

While the Kouachis have been linked to the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Coulibaly claimed to have sworn allegiance to the Islamic State.

To ease fears in a nation still jittery after its worst attacks in half a century, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that some 10,000 troops will be deployed to protect sensitive sites.

France has been on high alert for several months over its citizens who go to fight alongside Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The head of European police agency Europol, Rob Wainwright, said up to 5,000 European Union citizens have joined jihadist militant ranks.

AFP