PARIS (AP) — France has raised its alert to the highest level Wednesday after gunmen stormed the central Paris offices of a satirical newspaper and killed 12 people in what is being called a terrorist attack.
Police and a witness say masked gunmen with automatic weapons attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, which had been repeatedly threatened for publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, among other controversial sketches.
A prosecutor said the newspaper's editor and a cartoonist are among those killed.
French President Francois Hollande, who headed to the scene, said "several terrorist attacks were thwarted in recent weeks." France has reinforced security at houses of worship, stores, media offices and transportation.
An official of the SBP police union said the attackers escaped in two vehicles.
In 2011, the magazine's offices were firebombed after publishing a spoof issue that "invited" the Prophet Muhammad to be its guest editor. His caricature was on the cover.
But even though the outlet had prompted threats from radical Muslims in the past, it hadn't stopped poking fun at the extremists.
Just minutes before the attack, the newspaper tweeted a cartoon in which the leader of the Islamic State group is seen giving New Year's wishes.
Another cartoon, which appeared in this week's issue, was entitled, "Still No Attacks in France." It had a caricature of an extremist fighter saying, "Just wait -- we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes."
Embedded below, video uploaded by French media outlet France 24 shows people escaping through the Charlie Hebdo roof.
Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron called the attack "sickening."
"We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press," he wrote.
Calling France "America's oldest ally," President Barack Obama said he's offered U.S. resources to help catch the attackers.
"France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, officer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers," Obama said in a statement.