Kerry: Slain French Cartoonists are 'Martyrs for Liberty'

Twelve people have been killed at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Masked gunmen have killed 12 people at the offices of a French satirical newspaper in Paris Wednesday morning.

The suspects remain at large. The AP reports that the gunmen shouted "Allahu akbar" during the attack. French newspaper Metronews is reporting that three men were involved, and that police have details about their identities. Reuters reports the victims include two police officers, and BuzzFeed reports they include four well-known cartoonists.

The targeted publication, Charlie Hebdo, is a satirical weekly newspaper that has been repeatedly threatened for its coverage of religious figures, specifically of the Prophet Muhammad. In 2011, the paper's office was firebombed after publishing an issue "guest edited" by Muhammad. The paper responded with a cover less than a week later depicting a male Charlie Hebdo cartoonist kissing a bearded, presumably Muslim man with the burned office in the background, under the headline (translated to English) "Love is stronger than hate."

Several governments and organizations have already condemned the deadly attack. French President Francois Hollande called it a "terrorist attack" of "exceptional barbarity."

The White House has condemned the shooting in the "strongest possible terms," according to the Agence France-Presse. "Everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were killed or injured in this attack," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC, The Guardian reports.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke directly to the French people in a televised statement, where he said he agreed with "the French imam who today called the slain journalists martyrs for liberty."

"Each and every American stands with you today not just in horror or in anger or in outrage for this vicious act of violence, but we stand with you in solidarity and in commitment both to the cause of confronting extremism and in the cause which the extremists fear so much and which has always united our two countries—freedom," Kerry said in his statement, which he repeated in French.

The White House released this statement from President Obama later Wednesday morning:

I strongly condemn the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has reportedly killed 12 people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrorist attack and the people of France at this difficult time. France is America's oldest ally, and has stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States in the fight against terrorists who threaten our shared security and the world. Time and again, the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended. France, and the great city of Paris where this outrageous attack took place, offer the world a timeless example that will endure well beyond the hateful vision of these killers. We are in touch with French officials and I have directed my Administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.

Earnest said earlier that "the United States stands ready to work closely with the French" to help them investigate the shooting.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said the U.S. should raise the terror threat level at home in response to the Paris attack. "Even though it's in France, it's an attack on us. What these people were doing in France is what we do every day," he said on CNN.

Graham said that budget cuts to military and intelligence operations as well as changes to allowed interrogation techniques in the U.S. "are destroying the ability to gather intelligence and defend this country."

South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune also brought up intelligence funding after the attack. "The people in our intelligence community do a great job, but Congress, obviously, needs to make sure they have the tools, the funding and the resources that they need to do their jobs and do them well," Thune said on the Hill Wednesday. "We do have to recognize this threat for what it is and any attempt to minimize it is doing a disservice to the American people because these are people who want to kill us."

Following the attack, the American embassy in Paris changed its Twitter avatar to an image that read "Je suis Charlie," which translates to "I am Charlie," a statement of support that has been circulating on the social media network as a hashtag this morning. The embassy said on Twitter that "there are no plans to close the U.S. Embassy in Paris or other diplomatic facilities in France."

NATO described the shooting as "a barbaric act and an outrageous attack on press freedom."

"We stand in solidarity with our ally France," NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said. "All NATO allies stand together in the fight against terrorism."

The Committee to Protect Journalists joined in the condemnation. "This is a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe," said the organization's deputy director Robert Mahoney. "The scale of the violence is appalling. Journalists must now stand together to send the message that such murderous attempts to silence us will not stand."

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Lauren Fox and Matt Berman contributed to this article