PARIS — Thousands of Parisians lined up at dawn on Wednesday to secure their copy of the defiant special edition of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.
More than 700,000 copies were sold in the first hour, French television channel BFM reported.
One Paris newsstand limited customers to two copies each of the so-Called "survivors' edition," while others sold out within minutes of opening. "They have been disappearing everywhere," one customer said. "It is impossible to find one!"
"I've never bought it before, it's not quite my political stripes, but it's important for me to buy it today and support freedom of expression," said David Sullo, who lined up behind two dozen people at a kiosk in central Paris.
Working out of borrowed offices, surviving staff published five million copies — more than 80 times its usual 60,000 print run — in several languages, including English. Digital versions are available online and some shops in the U.S. have confirmed they plan to sell it.
It appeared one week to the day after the assault on an editorial meeting by two masked gunmen that killed 12 people, including chief editor Charb and other cartoonists. It was the beginning of three days of terror that saw 17 people killed before three Islamist extremist attackers were gunned down by security forces.
The 16-page special edition is made up of 57 cartoons, including the cover image of Muhammad crying and holding a “Je Suis Charlie” placard under the headline “All Is Forgiven.” The back cover features cartoons that were considered for the front cover but rejected.
“They tried to kill Charlie Hebdo, but they made it the most famous newspaper in the world," one of the magazine’s editors, Caroline Fourest, told ITV News. "How stupid they are!"
Some Muslim groups warned the magazine against publishing the images, which is considered blasphemous, but the cartoonist who drew the image said he was unconcerned about repercussions.
"I am not worried about the cover because people are intelligent," Renald Luzier, known as "Luz," told a news conference Tuesday.
In Britain, inflammatory extremist preacher Anjem Choudary described the cartoon’s publication as an “act of war,” although the mainstream Muslim Council of Great Britain advised followers: "Muslims have to remember that by depicting the Prophet … no one can ever tarnish his image, as he is way beyond what is depicted.”
One news vendor in rural England pre-ordered 20 copies. “I asked my supplier if he could get me some and he said it was possible,” owner Ila Aghera told the Gloucestershire Echo. “I already stock another French magazine, so I thought people might want to buy a copy of this magazine, especially as it’s coming out after everything that’s happened."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.