A person reads the latest issue of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, after gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher opened fire in the offices of the weekly in Paris, killing at least 11. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY        (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
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A person reads the latest issue of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on January 7, 2015, after gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher opened fire in the offices of the weekly in Paris, killing at least 11. AFP PHOTO / BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
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Caption:PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 11: Demonstrators make their way along Boulevrd Voltaire in a unity rally in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

Gunmen storm satirical magazine's office in Paris, officials say

Charlie Hebdo has courted controversy before with satirical takes on religious extremism

Magazine's offices were burned down in 2011 after it published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed

(CNN) —  

Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine targeted by gunmen who killed journalists and police in a brazen lunchtime attack Wednesday, is no stranger to controversy.

The Paris-based weekly satirical publication, which was founded in 1970, became famous for its risqué cartoons and daring takedowns of politicians, public figures and religious symbols of all faiths.

And although the motive behind Wednesday’s massacre is not yet clear, Charlie Hebdo’s notorious cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed in recent years have angered some Muslims and made it a target for attacks.

“Everybody knows them when you work in journalism,” said Marie Turcan, a journalist who was just 200 meters from Charlie Hebdo’s central Paris office when the shooting began. “They have marked French journalism forever with their drawings and their cover stories.”

A reputation for controversy

In November 2011 Charlie Hebdo’s office was burned down on the same day the magazine was due to release an issue with a cover that appeared to poke fun at Islamic law. The cover cartoon depicted a bearded and turbaned cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed with a bubble saying, “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.”

In September 2012, despite the ongoing global furor over the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” the magazine published an issue featuring a cartoon that appeared to depict a naked Mohammed, along with a cover that appeared to depict Mohammed being pushed in a wheelchair by an Orthodox Jew. French and American officials expressed dismay with the decision, and France closed embassies and schools in about 20 countries temporarily as a precaution.

Charlie Hebdo journalist Laurent Leger defended the magazine at the time, saying the cartoons were not intended to provoke anger or violence.

“The aim is to laugh,” Leger told BFM-TV in 2012. “We want to laugh at the extremists – every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept.”

“In France, we always have the right to write and draw. And if some people are not happy with this, they can sue us and we can defend ourselves. That’s democracy,” Leger said. “You don’t throw bombs, you discuss, you debate. But you don’t act violently. We have to stand and resist pressure from extremism.”

Massacre at editorial meeting

01:00 - Source: CNN
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Caption:PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 11: Demonstrators make their way along Boulevrd Voltaire in a unity rally in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
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Charlie Hebdo’s last tweet before Wednesday’s attack featured a cartoon of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi seemingly sending out his wishes for the new year with the words “And, above all, health.”