Secretary of State John Kerry defended freedom of expression and freedom of the press as indelible principles in remarks Wednesday morning following the deadly attack in Paris on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, extolling “brave and decent” people around the world who won’t succumb to intimidation or terror threats.“The freedom of expression that [the publication] represented is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror. On the contrary, it will never be eradicated by any act of terror,” Kerry said. “What they don’t understand, what these people who do these things don’t understand, is they will only strengthen the commitment to that freedom and our commitment to a civilized world.”
Gunmen killed 12 people Wednesday in eastern Paris when they attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which has published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Among those killed were 10 magazine employees and two police officers.
The shooters, who fled the scene, remain at large. A massive manhunt was underway in the French capital.
A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told NBC News they had no confirmation of any claim of responsibility for the attack. “We cannot confirm that ISIS or AQAP or any other group is responsible,” the official said.
“No country knows better than France that freedom has a price because France gave birth to democracy itself,” Kerry said in an address to the country and French residents after a meeting with Polish officials earlier in the day. He said he agreed with the French imam who called the slain journalists “martyrs for liberty.”
French President Francois Hollande said there is “no doubt this is a terrorist attack.” The country raised its threat level and increased security at other media organizations, stores, and places of worship. The president met with his inner cabinet at the presidential residence Wednesday.
President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and British Prime Minister David Cameron also have condemned the event. Obama said he directed his administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring the alleged terrorists to justice.
The attack occurred in proximity to the U.S. Embassy in Paris. Senior national security officials at the White House have been in contact with their counterparts in France. There were no immediate plans to evacuate the embassy.
The incident is the worst alleged terrorist incident against France in nearly 20 years. Previously, the European country’s deadliest attack occurred on July 25, 1995 at a Paris train station, where eight people died and about 150 individuals were injured.
Charlie Hebdo, which was was founded in 1969, has been involved in controversy in the past. Last year, Muslims sued the magazine for blasphemy after it published a cartoon poking fun of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad. The offices were firebombed in November 2011 a day after the publication released a caricature of the prophet.