While speaking briefly to the media in the Oval Office, Obama noted that the European country is one of America’s oldest and strongest allies, and has been with the United States “every moment” since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“For us to see the kind of cowardly evil attacks that took place today I think reinforces once again why it’s so important for us to stand in solidarity with them, just as they stand in solidarity with us,” he said before meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Gunmen killed 12 people Wednesday in eastern Paris when they attacked the Charlie Hebdo office, which has published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Among those killed were 10 magazine employees and two police officers.
Obama offered his support and help to French officials in tracking down the shooters if they continue to remain at large. The president also acknowledged that terrorist attacks can occur at any location in the world. Residents, he said, cannot allow “senseless violence” to silence their freedoms. He echoed Kerry, who, moments before, said terrorists can’t kill the freedoms of expression and speech.
“The one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few,” he said.
The attack, the worst alleged terrorist incident within France in nearly 20 years, occurred in close 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.
In Washington, flags were flown at half-mast outside of the French Embassy.