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France marks three years since Charlie Hebdo shooting

Emmanuel Macron (C) et Anne Hidalgo observent une minute de silence, le 7 janvier 2018 en hommage aux victimes des attaques jihadistes contre Charlie Hebdo et l'Hyper Cacher à Paris
Christophe Ena (POOL/AFP)
Authorities gathered for a low key ceremony in front of the former newsroom of the satirical weekly

French President Emmanuel Macron laid a wreath in front of the former offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Sunday to mark three years since the massacre of its staff in an Islamist attack

At a low-key ceremony, in line with requests from the families of the victims for a sober commemoration, Macron was joined by journalists from the magazine, members of his government and the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.

Two French jihadists who had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda killed 11 people at Charlie Hebdo's offices in 2015 over the staunchly atheist magazine's satirical coverage of Islam and the prophet Mohammed.

The assault, which saw a policeman executed at pointblank range nearby, profoundly shocked France. 

The attack at Charlie Hebdo caused great shock in France and around the world partly because it was perceived as an attack to liberal values, and on freedom of expression specifically.

Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, another French extremist took hostages at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris, killing five people before elite police raided the premises and shot him dead.

Anti-terror magistrates investigating the incidents are expected to finalize their probe in the next few months but have been unable to determine how the Charlie Hebdo killers -- Cherif and Said Kouchi -- coordinated with the supermarket shooter, Amedy Coulibaly.

They have also failed to track the source of the automatic weapons used by the Kouchi brothers for their killing spree.

Charlie Hebdo traditionally rejects placing boundaries to freedom of expression and satire even when they risk upsetting sentiments of decency or religiosity.

At a low-key ceremony on Sunday morning, in line with requests from the families of the victims for a sober commemoration, Macron laid a wreath in front of the former offices of satirical magazine.

Charlie Hebdo, which prides itself on being provocative, returned to the murder of its famed cartoonists and writers in its latest issue.

"The 7th of January 2015 propelled us into a new world of armed police, secure entrances and reinforced doors, of fear and death," wrote contributor Fabrice Nicolino in a column last week.

"And this in the heart of Paris and in conditions which do not honour the French republic. Do we still have a laugh? Yes," he added.

The magazine pays between 1.0-1.5 million euros (1.2-1.8 million dollars) in security costs annually to protect its offices which are at a secret location, its editor Riss wrote.

Sales meanwhile have fallen sharply since a wave of popular support following the bloodshed.

Company revenues fell to 19.4 million euros in 2016, down from more than 60 million in 2015, according to figures first reported by the BFM news channel and confirmed to AFP by the magazine.

Its journalists and editors still regularly receive death threats and the magazine courted fresh controversy in November with a front-page on the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan who has been accused of sexually assaulting women.

The Swiss academic, who is widely read and followed in France, was depicted with a huge erection above the line: "I am the sixth pillar of Islam."

The weekly also sparked controversy when it published caricatures of the victims of the earthquake of Amatrice in central Italy, which caused around 290 victims in August 2016.

Casualties were represented as typical Italian pasta dishes, their blood turned into tomato sauce.

Amatrice, the Italian town that suffered most from the quake, sued Charlie Hebdo after it responded to criticism publishing yet another caricature where it claimed Italian houses that were destroyed had been built by the mafia.

The weekly also drew controversy by publishing caricatures of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian child who drowned and was washed ashore near the Turkish coast town of Bodrum in 2015.

Staff with agencies

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