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Five and a half years after Islamist extremists gunned down a dozen people in an attack on the offices of the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper announced Tuesday that it will reprint cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that apparently sparked the attack.
An editorial to accompany the cartoons, set to come out Wednesday to coincide with the start of a trial related to the attack, said the paper’s staff “will never lie down.”
“We will never give up,” publishing director Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who was wounded in the attack, wrote. “The hatred that struck us is still there and, since 2015, it has taken the time to mutate, to change its appearance, to go unnoticed and to quietly continue its ruthless crusade.”
“The only reasons” not to reprint the cartoons, he said, “stem from political or journalistic cowardice.”
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Some of the cartoons, one of which depicts Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, were first published in 2005 by a Danish newspaper and then reprinted by Charlie Hebdo the following year.
The cartoons sparked anger among many Muslims, not only for their unflattering portrayal of Muhammad but because many believe that visual depictions of him amount to blasphemy. They also accused the newspaper of branding all Muslims as terrorists.
On Tuesday, the French Council of the Muslim Faith tweeted: “The freedom to caricature and the freedom to dislike them are enshrined and nothing justifies violence.”
In the attack on Jan. 7, 2015, brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi — armed with assault rifles, submachine guns, grenades and pistols — stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, killing 12 people, including cartoonists and other editorial staff. Nearly a dozen others were wounded. As the attackers left the scene, they reportedly shouted that they had “avenged the Prophet.” Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the attack.
Years before, in 2011, the paper’s Paris offices had been firebombed.
Days after the 2015 attack, a third gunman, claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, attacked a Jewish market in Paris, killing several people and taking numerous hostages.
The Kouachi brothers and the kosher grocery gunman were subsequently killed in police raids.
The trial that begins on Wednesday involves 14 people who are alleged to have given logistically and material support to the attackers. They face between 10 years and life in prison if convicted.