By James McAuley
September 26, 2020 at 1:10 a.m. GMT+9 THe Washington Post
PARIS — Two people were stabbed in a knife attack Friday morning outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French newspaper that was the target of a shooting that killed 12 people in 2015.
French authorities said two suspects had been apprehended, and while a motive was not immediately clear, the national anti-terrorism office launched an investigation of possible attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise.
Prosecutors said the circumstances of the attack suggested an effort to make a symbolic gesture.
“In view of the location of the attack, in front of the building where Charlie’s editorial staff was previously installed,” the incident is being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said in a news conference at the scene.
Friday’s stabbing occurred near a mural of the slain Charlie Hebdo journalists, a de facto memorial in the city. The stabbing comes amid the ongoing and highly publicized trial of 14 alleged accomplices in the 2015 attack on the newspaper’s offices and on a kosher supermarket outside Paris, where four hostages were killed.
Prime Minister Jean Castex said the lives of the two people stabbed Friday were not at risk.
The two victims were employees of Première Lignes, a French television company that specializes in investigative documentaries, and had been outside on the street on a smoking break, their supervisor told Le Monde.
“First of all, I wanted to show my solidarity with the families of the victims,” Castex said at the site. “I reaffirm our unwavering attachment to freedom of the press, the fight against terrorism, and I want to assure the nation of our full mobilization.”
During the search for the attackers Friday, Paris police cordoned off the area in the east of the city and children in nearby schools were kept inside.
The staff of Charlie Hebdo tweeted, “Charlie’s entire team sends support and solidarity to our former neighbors and colleagues @PLTVfilms and to those affected by this heinous attack.”
In January 2015, the newspaper was targeted after printing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, strictly prohibited by the Muslim faith. (Its offices were also firebombed in 2011 after a similar cartoon.) The two brothers who attacked its offices in 2015 proclaimed affiliation with al-Qaeda. They were recorded saying as they fled the scene that they had “avenged the prophet.”
To mark the opening of the trial this month, Charlie Hebdo republished the caricatures on its cover.
Editor Laurent Sourisseau reported that Charlie Hebdo was, in turn, threatened again by al-Qaeda.
Friday’s stabbing also came amid rising concerns about censorship and death threats that some journalists have reported experiencing for publishing material seen as “blasphemous.”
Earlier this past week, more than 100 French media organizations signed an open letter in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in defense of free expression.
“The violence of words has been transformed little by little into physical violence,” the letter read. “. . . Let’s remember here, in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, which paid for its liberty with the blood of its employees, that the crime of blasphemy does not exist in France.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly said the Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed in 2010. It was 2011.