Revenge attacks on Muslim places of worship have begun in France following yesterday’s massacre at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
Mosques, a prayer hall and a kebab shop near a Muslim temple were targeted in the early hours of the morning following the terrorist attack–in which 12 people were murdered by suspected Islamist fanatics.
The retaliation comes as French citizens, and the international community, attempt to come to terms with yesterday’s shocking and deadly assault on free speech.
In the city of Le Mans, west of Paris, three blank grenades were thrown at a mosque shortly after midnight–and a bullet was also fired through one of the windows.
In the Port-la-Nouvelle district, near Narbonne in southern France, several shots were fired in the direction of a Muslim prayer hall shortly after evening prayers.
According to French prosecutors, the hall was empty and no-one was injured.
A kebab shop, located near a mosque in the eastern French town of Villefranche-sur-Saone, was also blown up. Again, there were no casualties.
Eight journalists–including the magazine’s editor–died in yesterday’s attack, along with two policemen, a maintenance worker and another visitor when the masked terrorists stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
The magazine has become a byword for offensive statements in France after taking several highly provocative swipes at Islam.
The newspaper once named Prophet Mohammed as its guest editor, published cartoons of the holy figure in the nude, and once renamed itself Sharia Hebdo with the cover slogan ‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter’.
Today, four leading French imams denounced the massacre, warning that the world is a dangerous place without freedom of expression but urging the media to be respectful of religion.
Tonight, two armed suspects wanted over the massacre–believed to be brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi–were being pursued through woodland as a huge manhunt closed in on a forest.
Police believe they have tracked down the brothers to a remote area about 50 miles north-east of Paris after they reportedly robbed a nearby petrol station.
Officers are said to have found a Molotov cocktail bomb and jihadist flag in the car of Cherif and Said Kouachi, which they abandoned before fleeing.
The men, still armed, headed on foot into the vast Forêt de Retz (Retz Forest) that measures 32,000 acres, an area roughly the size of Paris.
Their alleged getaway driver Hamyd Mourad, 18, has already turned himself into police in Charleville-Mezieres in northern France.
All three French-Algerian Muslims escaped yesterday following the bloodbath.
French Muslims have expressed fears that the sickening attack will lead to a surge in people joining the country’s far-right movement Front National.
Politician Marine Le Pen, leader of the surging far-right National Front, urged the country’s residents to wake up to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
But some of the most vocal rightist responses to the massacre came from Germany.
A leader of the far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD, said the party would mobilise followers to join anti-Islam street protests in the eastern city of Dresden that have been growing in size over the past three months.
Houria Bouteldja, spokeswoman for Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR), told Al Jazeera: ‘This is a veritable nightmare for the Muslim community, but a veritable windfall for the extreme-right parties that will exploit this appalling crime.’
The PIR party represents the interests of people from many of France’s predominantly Muslim former colonies in Africa and elsewhere.
She added: ‘The people who committed this crime have committed a crime not only against Charlie Hebdo, but also against the Muslim community.’
A minute’s silence was held across France in memory of the victims of yesterday’s atrocity as the newspaper defiantly vowed to publish next week’s edition.
In a separate disturbing development, a gunman was arrested in a Paris suburb this morning after a female police officer was shot dead and a colleague injured in a second attack.
Shots rang out in Montrouge, in the south of city, at the start of the morning rush hour, with an M5 assault rifle believed to have been used.
Witnesses saw what appeared to a collision between two cars, followed by two men appearing with the weapon.
The gunman–who is understood to have been armed with an M5 assault rifle–was described as appearing to be of North African descent.
The young policewoman has been named by French media as Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 27.
A second victim–a street cleaner who was shot in the face after he confronted the gunman–is said to be in a serious condition.