PARIS — The police organized an enormous manhunt across the Paris region on Wednesday for three suspects they said were involved in a brazen and methodical midday slaughter at a satirical newspaper that had lampooned Islam.
The terrorist attack by masked gunmen on the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, left 12 people dead — including the top editor, prominent cartoonists and police officers — and was among the deadliest in postwar France. The killers escaped, traumatizing the city and sending shock waves through Europe and beyond.
Officials said late Wednesday that two of the suspects were brothers. They were identified as Said and Chérif Kouachi, 34 and 32. The third suspect is Hamyd Mourad, 18. News reports said the brothers, known to intelligence services, had been born in Paris, raising the prospect that homegrown Muslim extremists were responsible.
“He introduced himself and was put in custody,” said the spokeswoman, Agnès Thibault-Lecuivre.
The assault threatened to deepen the distrust of France’s large Muslim population, coming at a time when Islamic radicalism has become a central concern of security officials throughout Europe. In the space of a few minutes, the assault also crystallized the culture clash between religious extremism and the West’s devotion to free expression. Spontaneous rallies expressing support for Charlie Hebdo sprung up later in the day in Paris, throughout Europe and in Union Square in New York.
Officials and witnesses said at least two gunmen had carried out the attack with assault weapons and military-style precision. President François Hollande of France called it a display of extraordinary “barbarism” that was “without a doubt” an act of terrorism. He declared Thursday a national day of mourning.