Gunmen stormed the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, shooting those inside and leaving at least 12 people dead.
French police and a Paris prosecutor's office confirmed 12 people had been killed in the incident. A further 10 people were said to be wounded, four of them critically.
The famous French cartoonists Jean Cabut, Stephane Charbonnier (also known as Charb, the magazine's editor-in-chief), Georges Wolinski and Bernhard Verlhac (who worked under the pseudonym Tignous) were all reported to have been killed in the attack. Two policemen also died, with the premises having been under police protection.
Benoit Bringer, a journalist with the Agence Premiere Ligne agency, told the iTele network he saw several masked men armed with machine guns.
"About a half an hour ago two black-hooded men entered the building with Kalashnikovs," Bringer said. "A few minutes later we heard lots of shots."
Police union official Rocco Contento described the scene inside the offices as "carnage." One tweet featured a picture of a man being rushed past assembled journalists to hospital.
According to witnesses cited by a police source, the attackers shouted "we have avenged the prophet."
The gunmen were captured in a YouTube video fleeing the scene in a black Citroen. As an exhaustive manhunt began, police said the vehicle had later been found abandoned.
French President Francois Hollande arrived outside the offices in Paris's 11th arrondissement, after calling an emergency cabinet meeting. Speaking at the scene, Hollande said there was no doubt that the shooting had been a "terrorist attack," adding that several other attempts at attacks had been thwarted "in recent weeks."
The government in France has raised the alert level in the greater Paris region to the highest possible level.
British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the attack via Twitter.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the shooting was "an attack not only on French citizens, but on the freedoms of press and speech."
The satirical newspaper was firebombed in November 2011, after a "Charia Hebdo" edition supposedly guest edited by Islam's Prophet Muhammad, who was also featured in cartoons carried by the magazine.
The last tweet published by Charlie Hebdo featured a picture mocking "Islamic State" (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and wishing him good health.
rc/gb (AFP, Reuters)