Three masked gunmen stormed and opened fire on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people earlier today in Paris, reported The Guardian. Of the dead were newspaper cartoonists and police officers.

Charlie Hebdo built its reputation on satirical attacks on the religions of the world, especially Islam. According to French President Francois Hollande, the attack on the newspaper is “a terrorist attack, without a doubt.” Hollande also noted that the French government had stopped similar attacks “in recent weeks.”

The French government raised the domestic alert to its highest level. Luc Poignant of the SBP police union said the three attackers, armed with automatic assault weapons, left the scene in two cars.

The Islamic State had threatened to attack France in the recent past. Shortly before the attack, Charlie Hebdo “had tweeted a satirical cartoon of that extremist group’s leader giving New Year’s wishes.” Muslim extremist groups have threatened Charlie Hebdo multiple times in the past for the newspaper’s depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

In 2011, the Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed, which came following the newspaper published an issue featuring a satirical depiction of Muhammad.

French authorities have confirmed that there were three attackers, and they have reportedly escaped by way of the Paris beltway, ditching their vehicles east of the city. French authorities are executing a massive manhunt in search of the gunmen.

Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, is no stranger to Muslim-extremist intolerance. After publishing his most famous work, Rushdie was threatened with a fatwa, which is a decision made by an Islamic scholar. This fatwa in particular came with a death sentence for Rushdie, as dictated by a religious Muslim scholar’s ruling.

In solidarity with the French victims, Rushdie released a statement:

Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.

I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion’. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

Religious intolerance has killed millions of people during the world’s history. The only end-product of religious extremism is pain, suffering, and death.

Below are videos of the attack:

Charlie Hebdo : les images de l'attaque, filmée… by LeHuffPost