What is Charlie Hebdo and why was the magazine targeted: Explained

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Three 'black-hooded' gunmen attacked the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, killing 12 people in the shooting. Before fleeing, the gunmen shouted, "we have avenged the prophet, we have killed Charlie Hebdo".

Paris attack: All you need to know

What is Charlie Hebdo?

  • Charlie Hebdo is a satirical left-wing French weekly magazine, published every Wednesday.
  • It was first published in 1969, then closed in the 1980s before reappearing in 1992. 
  • It is best known for its illustrations and provocative imagery.
  • The magazine aims to mock all forms of authority, from politicians to religion to the military.
  • According to its editor, Stephane Charbonnier (popularly known as Charb) who was killed in Wednesday's attack, the magazine's editorial viewpoint reflects "all components of left wing pluralism, and even abstainers". 
  • The magazine has long been in confrontation with Islamists over its cartoons.

Magazine and controversies

  • In Feb 2006, the magazine reprinted images of the Prophet Muhammad that had appeared in a Danish magazine a year before, causing fury across the Muslim world. 
  • In 2007, it published a picture of Muhammad crying, with the tagline "It's hard to be loved by idiots." 
  • In 2011, it featured a front-page cartoon of the Prophet together with the words, "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter."
  • In September 2012, Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of a naked Mohammed.
  • In its Dec 20 edition, the newspaper published a cartoon of the Virgin Mary giving birth to a pig-faced Jesus.

Previous attack on magazine

  • In Nov 2011, magazine's offices were set on fire after it published a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad saying "100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing."
  • The incident forced the magazine to relocate to its current offices in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
  • Its editorial staff also got threat calls. 
  • Magazine's Editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier was living under police protection after receiving death threats.

Magazine on hit list of Al-Qaeda

  • Charlie Hebdo was in Al-Qaeda hit list for quite a while.
  • Specifically, cartoonist Charb was named as one of the 13 most wanted persons in the list made by the terrorist organisation.
  • Charb invited ire of the Islamist fundamentalists for drawing a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad in 2006.

What has prompted Wednesday's attack?

  • The magazine has continued to poke fun at jihadists and the Prophet Mohammed. 
  • There was already a terror threat against the magazine and hence it had elaborate security arrangements.
  • In the last edition published on Wednesday, the magazine carry a cartoon with headline "Still no attacks in France," he depicted a jihadist soldier carrying an AK-47 rifle saying, "Wait! We've got until the end of January to present our wishes."
  • Also, a tweet sent out by magazine on Wednesday shows a mock New Year greeting from Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ("And especially to health").
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