(Photo: Youtube screenshot)

Police in Paris are searching for terrorists who arrived at the headquarters of satirical French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12 people, wounding several others, before escaping.

Twelve people were murdered and the death toll may rise following a bloody attack by terrorists in Paris on Wednesday.

The victims include two policemen and four of France’s most prominent cartoonists, reports indicate. At least 10 more were wounded, some critically. French President Francois Hollande described the attack as one “of exceptional barbarity.”

The target was the headquarters of satirical French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo. The publication has angered radical Muslims in the past by poking fun at Muslim leaders and including caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, which Muslims consider to be sacrilege.

Witnesses say the terrorists entered the ground floor of the building and began shooting. When police arrived, the assailants, who had reached the next floor up, managed to escape, shooting at the officers on the way out and yelling, Allahu Akbar. (Arabic for “God is great”)

“We have avenged the prophet,” they shouted, according to police, AFP reports.

Police are searching for the terrorists, who reportedly arrived at the newspaper headquarters in a stolen car and escaped in the same vehicle. The terror alert has been raised to the highest level.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the attack. “This is a brazen assault on free expression in the heart of Europe,” Robert Mahoney, CPJ deputy director, stated. “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.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Freedom of Speech Under Attack

This was not the first time that the Charlie Hebdo premises had been hit by terrorists offended by spoofs on Islam. In 2011, for example, the newspaper offices were destroyed. At the time, BBC reported, editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier declared: “If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.”

Charbonnier is among the dead victims.

“We are threatened because we are a country of liberty,” Hollande stated, vowing to defend freedom of the press.

Jerusalem Sends Condolences

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman sent condolences to France, saying the the free world must not cave in to terror.

Islamic terror attacks have been on the rise in France. Hollande also acknowledged that several more acts of terror were thwarted in recent weeks, Ynet reports.

The Jewish community in particular has been targeted by radical Islamists, and aliyah (immigration to Israel) from France has doubled in the past year.

By United with Israel Staff