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United in grief

Mourners gather during a rally in support of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper that fell victim to an terrorist attack, on Wednesday at Union Square in New York. French officials say 12 people were killed when masked gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the periodical that had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad

Bermuda’s French community was united in grief last night after a terror attack on the Paris offices of a satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo claimed 12 lives.

Three gunmen stormed the building at 11.30am local time and shot dead 12 people, including two police officers and eight journalists, and seriously injured several others.

The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car.

French nationals living in Bermuda were quick to condemn the “cowardly” attack.

Chef Jean Claude Garzia, who owns Beau Rivage, described the events as “one of the darkest days in the history of Paris”.

Mr Garzia, who left his homeland in 1976 and arrived in Bermuda in 1981, told The Royal Gazette: “This is a barbaric attack on free speech.

“It feels like we are going back to the dark ages.

“The guys that worked for Charlie Hebdo were well known all around the world.

“I Skyped a friend in Paris yesterday and he told me that people were scared to go out on the streets. They are worried that something else is going to happen.

“Shops were closed and the public transport system was shut down.

“There is a real sense of fear in Paris as a result of this attack.”

Last night as President François Hollande declared Thursday a day of mourning, while thousands across France and Europe attended rallies in support of the Charlie Hebdo staff that were killed.

Marc Morabito, an accountant born and brought up in Paris, described yesterday’s tragic events as “very sad”.

Mr Morabito, who came to Bermuda in 1969. added: “I still have family and friends in Paris.

“There is obviously going to be a great amount of shock in the city. I am a fervent believer in liberty of expression. It was Voltaire who said ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it’.

“There will be a greater awareness in France now of what the risks of this kind of extremism are and I’m sure it will increase friction between the various groups of people.

“I feel very sad about what has happened.

“This was a cowardly attack designed to incite community unrest.”

The gunmen are alleged to have shouted “we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” when they stormed the Paris office yesterday morning. French President François Hollande said there was no doubt it had been a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity”.

Last night a major police operation continued in the Paris area to catch the killers.

Audrey Smatt, president of the L’Alliance Francais in Bermuda told The Royal Gazette: “The French Community in Bermuda is shocked and saddened by the senseless violence that occurred in Paris.

“The attack represents an attack against the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

“Our thoughts are with the friends and loved ones of those who were killed.”

Nicky Gurret, whose parents were French and whose mother hailed from Paris, added: “This is a sad day for Paris, but also a sad day for the world.

“It is simply shocking and very tragic.”

Jeremy Deacon, executive officer of the Media Council of Bermuda, said: “This is a cowardly attack on journalists who should be free to operate with freedom of speech. Any attack on freedom of the press is an attack on us all. Our sympathies are with the families of those who were cruelly murdered for doing their job.”

<p>Bermuda Muslims voice outrage</p>

Bermuda’s Muslims have aligned themselves to comments from the Islamic Organisation for Latin America and the Caribbean and the Muslim World League, which strongly denounced the gun attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris yesterday.

The release reads as follows:

We express that this is a heinous crime rejected and condemned by Islam.

It is also stressed that response to the positions of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, which hurt Muslims’ sentiments through offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, should not be through violence, killing and intimidation.

Rather, it should be through dialogue and persuasion while providing truthful information about Islam and the Prophet’s personality and clarifying the boundaries of freedom of expression as defined by the international media law, the principles of human rights and the UN resolution on defamation of religions.