People gathered outside the French Embassy in Stockholm to show their support for the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and to protest against the violence. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT
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Candles lit outside the French Embassy in Stockholm on Wednesday evening. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

Ministers condemn Charlie Hebdo attack

The deadly attack on a French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday, which has killed at least 12, has been condemned in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Margot Wallström writes on Twitter that those responsible for the "horrendous terror attack" must be pursued and freedom of speech defended.

In a press release, Wallström elaborates, "Our thoughts go to the victims and their families. It's also an extremely alarming attack against the fundamental freedom to spread information and express one's opinion. This is a condition for an open and democratic community."

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven also condemned the attack, calling it "a disgusting attack against the democratic foundations", and "an attack that emphasises our responsibility to always stand up for the freedom of the press and freedom of expression". He said he will be sending a telegram of condolences to Prime Minister Hollande, and that his thoughts are with the victims and their families.

Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development and Cooperation, echoed those sentiments and called it a terrible start to 2015.

Leaders of several of the political parties in Sweden also condemned the attack, as did journalists in Sweden.

"It's an abominable deed and a terrorist deed aimed at free expression," says Jonas Nordling, the chair of the Swedish Union of Journalists, to news agency TT, adding that there is no place for discussions about whether it was right or wrong to publish material in this context.

"There is nothing that can make it right that people are mowed down, regardless of what they published," he says.

The news agency AP quoted the Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who lives under police protection after he portrayed the Prophet Muhammed as a dog. He said: "This will create fear among people on a whole different level than we're used to. Charlie Hebdo was a small oasis. Not many dared do what they did. I don't know what's going to happen to them. Can they continue to publish the magazine?"

Johannes Klenell, who works at the Swedish satirical magazine Galago, tells news agency TT, "When something like this happens, it sets in motion tons of latent feelings of fear."

Klenell says, however, that what he is really worried about is the debate that may arise after this, which he believes will be exploited by the extreme right.

"The feeling is that this cannot lead to any positive discussion, whatsoever. It's just a big black hole," he says.

The Swedish intelligence service, Säpo, tweeted that they are following what is unfolding in Paris, and that for the time being, it is not affecting the threat level for Sweden. 

On Wednesday, masked gunmen stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo, opening fire with automatic weapons and screaming, "We have avenged the prophet!" 

Charlie Hebdo had recently published on its Twitter feed a satirical cartoon depicting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the IS jihadist group. 

In 2006, the magazine published the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed that previously had been published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, causing upset among Islamic organisations around the world. Charlie Hebdo has been threatened several times before, and in 2011 had its offices destroyed when another issue with Mohammed cartoons was about to be published.

According to Swedish Radio, several jihadist websites have in the past encouraged attacks on the magazine. But the magazine targets all religions on its pages. In the past, front pages depicting Pope Benedict in a passionate embrace with a Vatican guard or an Orthodox Jew kissing a Nazi soldier have stirred debate.

A major manhunt is underway in France. According to media reports, three men involved in the attack have been identified.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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