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Obama: Magazine Attack Shows Terrorists 'Fear Freedom of Speech'

Says France and the city of Paris "offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers"
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President Barack Obama on Wednesday called the assault on the office of a French magazine in Paris a "cowardly and evil attack" that underscores terrorists' "fear" of free speech.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama said that the attack on satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo "underscores that these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press."

The magazine has published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

In his remarks, Obama expressed his sympathies to the people of Paris and of France for the "terrible terrorist attack." And he promised that the United States will help bring the perpetrators of the assault to justice and will "roll of up the networks that help to advance these kinds of plots."

"These kinds of attacks can happen anywhere in the world," he added, saying that America will stay "vigilant" in the fight against terrorism.

Twelve people were killed when gunmen attacked the offices of satirical news magazine Charlie Hebdo, which has published cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

A senior administration official says that Obama has had a "short" conversation with French president Francois Hollande to offer his condolences.

In his remarks and in an earlier written statement Wednesday, Obama did not mention past violence directed at the magazine, which was firebombed in 2011 after it published a caricature of Muhammad. But he said that the United States and France stand together "in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world."

In 2012, the White House criticized Charlie Hebdo's publication of the caricatures as "deeply offensive to many."

During the September 19, 2012, press briefing, then-spokesman Jay Carney questioned "the judgment of publishing something like this."

"We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory," he added.

However, Carney also reiterated the importance of upholding the freedom of expression and concluded: "no matter how offensive something like this is, it is not in any way justification for violence -- not in any way justification for violence."


- Carrie Dann and Peter Alexander