A major manhunt has been launched for three gunmen who shot dead 12 people at the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Eight journalists, including the magazine's editor, and two policemen were among the dead. French media have named the suspects, quoting police. A police operation is under way in Reims, north-east of Paris. Protests over the attack, the deadliest the country has seen in decades, are being held across France. President Francois Hollande called it a "cowardly murder" and declared a day of national mourning on Thursday. He said the country's tradition of free speech had been attacked and called on all French people to stand together. "Our best weapon is our unity," Mr Hollande said in a televised address late on Wednesday. Security has been stepped up across France in the wake of the attack, with Paris placed on the highest alert. Media reports described one of the three suspects as a militant sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison for belonging to a group sending jihadist fighters to Iraq. Late on Wednesday elite commandos were seen hunting for the three in Reims, 140km (90 miles) from Paris. The satirical weekly has courted controversy in the past with its irreverent take on news and current affairs. It was firebombed in November 2011 a day after it carried a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.
Gunmen flee the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in this still image taken from amateur video shot on 7 January 2015, and obtained by Reuters. A firefight erupted outside the offices between the attackers and police Police officers prepare to reportedly evacuate bodies from the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Nicolas Appert Street on 7 January 2015 in Paris, France Wednesday's attack is France's deadliest since 1961 People hold placards reading in French "I am Charlie" during a gathering at the Place de la Republique (Republic square) in Paris, on 7 January 2015, Thousands have gathered at a central square in Paris for a silent vigil The attack took place as the magazine was holding its weekly editorial meeting. French media have named three cartoonists killed in the attack as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski, as well as Charlie Hebdo contributor and French economist Bernard Maris.
Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier, 47, had received death threats in the past and was living under police protection. Five of the victims known to have died in the attack, including deputy chief editor Bernard Maris, Georges Wolinsky, Jean Cabut, Stephane Charbonnier and Bernard Verlhac. Those killed include economist Bernard Maris, prominent cartoonists Wolinski and Cabu, Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier and cartoonist Bernard Verlhac
Cartoonist Corinne Rey, said the hooded gunmen entered the building after forcing her to enter the code to open the door. "They said they belonged to al-Qaeda," she said, adding they had spoken in fluent French. Eyewitnesses said they heard as many as 50 shots fired by the attackers both inside the Charlie Hebdo office and on the streets outside. The gunmen were captured on amateur video shooting one injured police officer at point blank range in the head on the pavement outside. They were heard shouting "we have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic ("Allahu Akbar").