Gunmen have shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in an apparent militant Islamist attack.
Four of the magazine’s well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers.
A major police operation is under way to find three gunmen who fled by car.
President Francois Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.
The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. They later abandoned the car in Rue de Meaux, northern Paris, where they hijacked a second car.
Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”).
The number of attackers was initially reported to be two, but French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve later said security services were hunting three “criminals”. He said that Paris had been placed on the highest alert.
Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection.
French media have named the three other cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski. The attack took place during the magazine’s daily editorial meeting.
At least seven people were wounded in the attack, with several in critical condition.
The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.
The latest tweet on Charlie Hebdo’s account was a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
People had been “murdered in a cowardly manner”, President Hollande told reporters at the scene. “We are threatened because we are a country of liberty,” he added, appealing for national unity.
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