President Barack Obama made remarks about the shooting that took place at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris on Wednesday before holding a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama said his “thoughts and prayers” were with those affected by the shooting, saying his administration is doing all it can to “remain vigilant” against threats to Americans in France and in the US.
“I’ve reached out to President Hollande of France and hope to have the opportunity to talk to him today, but thought it was appropriate to express my deepest sympathy to the people of Paris and the people of France for the terrible terrorist attack that took place earlier today,” Obama said.
Obama’s meeting with Kerry and Biden was scheduled in response to the shooting.
In his remarks, Obama noted that France is “one of our oldest allies” and “one of our strongest allies.” He said the country has “been with us at every moment” in “dealing with terrorist organisations” since the September 11th attacks in 2001.
“For us to see the kind of cowardly evil attack that took place today I think reinforces why it’s so important for us to stand in solidarity with them as they do with us,” said the president.
Obama also said the shooting, which left 12 people dead, including several staffers of the magazine, “underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press.” Charlie Hebdo has published cartoons and articles lampooning jihadists and Islam including caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims find offensive.
“The values that we share with the French people, a universal belief in freedom of expression is something that won’t be silenced because of senseless violence,” Obama said.
While no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the shooting at the magazine’s headquarters, a witness reportedly said the gunmen made statements indicating they were “avenging the prophet.” Charlie Hebdo was previously attacked in a 2011 firebombing at its headquarters.
Obama concluded by noting “our counterterrorism cooperation with France is excellent” and vowed “we will provide them with every bit of assistance that we can going forward.”
“I think it’s going to be important for us that we recognise these kinds of attacks could happen anywhere in the world,” said Obama.
The president said he would be talking with Kerry about how to “make sure that we remain vigilant” to protect Americans inside and outside of the country. He also expressed confidence the US and French governments would continue to work to “hunt down and to bring the perpetrators of this specific act to justice and to roll up the networks that advance these plots.”
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