Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) has been popping up all over social media, but why? It all started Wednesday, January 6, when France began a downward spiral into violence, fear, and bloodshed through the hands of three men and ended with many questions, lots of support, and the deadliest attack in France since 1961.
To recap the situation, three terrorists entered the office of satirical French cartoonist Charlie Hebdo and killed ten journalists as well as two police officers. Hebdo is well known for his crass cartoons and it is likely that he was targeted because of them. There are reports of the gunman cheering, “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” following the massacre and identifying them as part of Al Qaeda. Leaving a wake of blood, the three men fled the scene, and the manhunt commenced. To read more about the first portion of the attack, click here.
Two suspects where quickly identified as the Kouachi brothers. Saïd has known Al Qaeda ties stemming from a trip to Yemen in 2011 where the terrorist group trained him. His brother, Chéirif, had attempted to leave France for Syria but was arrested and convicted before his trip. The two were tracked down to a printing plant in Dammartin-en-Goële early on Friday. They held one single hostage. For hours the police tried to negotiate with the brothers to no avail; the gunman reportedly told police that they were ready to die as martyrs. At 5pm, the police raided the plant, killed the two brothers, and freed the hostage.
Only a day earlier, the brother’s suspected third man had shot and killed a police officer. Amedy Coulibaly had been suspected of being a part of the brother’s jihadist group, and he was found early Friday holding thirteen hostages in a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes. Coulibaly threatened that he would kill his hostages if police attacked the Kouachi brothers. As the raid the in Dammartin-en-Goële occurred, police launched their own charge in Porte de Vincennes. However, unlike with the brothers, Coulibaly killed four hostages and left five wounded before he was killed.
How did this ever happen? America knew all about the three terrorists’ connections, so why did France seem so unprepared? Yemen has always been an American, not a French, priority. France has focused more on their citizens that went to go fight for an Islamic state in Iraq or Syria, so it is likely that the three had been placed at a lower priority level. Not to mention that the French have about 1,000-2,000 people that went to fight in Iraq and Syria, and there just isn’t the manpower to aggressively track each person. Nevertheless, the three-day horror has shown many issues in France’s intelligence agency and the government is working to fix it.
While this ordeal has raised a lot of questions, the answer may take a while to all come out. For now, though, France must focus on growing for the better. People across the world have gathered in solidarity to show their unity against terrorism and belief in free speech. As one journalist said, “On 9/11 we were all Americans, today we are all Charlies.” This heinous crime leaves many dead, but not a country afraid. Rather, a country that is rallying against the injustice and coming together. As President François Holland said in a press conference, “Following this ordeal, I can assure you: We will emerge even stronger.”