Parisians react to attack near Charlie Hebdo’s former offices

Knife attack comes three weeks after start of high profile trial over 2015 assault on the satirical newspaper.

Seven people have been arrested in connection with the stabbing [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

Paris, France – Two people are receiving treatment after being stabbed outside the former offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in eastern Paris.

The victims of the attack on Friday afternoon, a man and a woman, work for a media production company called Premieres Lignes.

The company took over the office space in 2015 following the deadly assault in January of that year on Charlie Hebdo staff, which killed 12 people.

Speaking from the scene on Friday, Prime Minister Jean Castex said the victims’ injuries were not life-threatening.

Two men were arrested nearby about an hour after the stabbings took place. Five others were later arrested on suspicion of helping plan the attack.

France’s National Anti-Terrorist Prosecutor’s Office (Pnat) has opened an investigation, citing the location and timing of the attacks as key factors in its suspicion of terrorism.

“In view of the location of the attack, in front of the building where Charlie’s editorial staff was previously installed,” the incident was being investigated as a possible terrorist attack, said Paris prosecutor Remy Hertz.

The violence comes three weeks after the start of a high-profile trial that accuses 14 people of helping the assailants in the logistics of the Charlie Hebdo attack, as well as an attack at a kosher supermarket in which four people were killed.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex arrives at the scene of a stabbing attack near the former offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris [Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters]

A new normal

For Parisians, the stabbings represent the latest in a series of attacks in recent years that have reshaped the country.

“It’s become ‘normal’,” Jules Rotivel, a 21-year-old student whose school is near the offices, told Al Jazeera. “It’s happened before, and it will happen again … but that doesn’t mean we should stop living our lives.”

Laetitia Nassah, a 36-year-old primary school teacher who works next to the offices, expressed similar feelings.

“It’s hard to admit, but it’s something I feel we’ve all become used to,” Nassah told Al Jazeera.

In a statement, France’s former President Francois Hollande said terrorism remained a “major threat” for the country.

“Once again, it is the republic that is being hit,” Hollande said. “But as has been done before, it will show the strength of its values and the firmness of its response.”

Friday’s violence follows a string of new threats against Charlie Hebdo. The magazine received threats from al-Qaeda earlier this month after it republished cartoons making fun of the Prophet Muhammad.

Marika Bret, Charlie Hebdo’s head of human resources, was forced to leave her home 12 days ago after receiving several serious threats. Bret has been living under police protection since the January 2015 attacks.

The threats have prompted a fresh wave of support for the magazine in France as well as support for freedom of speech in general.

An Ifop poll published the day before the start of the trial found that 59 percent of people support Charlie Hebdo’s decision to republish the cartoons “in the name of freedom of expression”.

Earlier this week, more than 100 French media outlets also signed an open letter in defence of Charlie Hebdo and support for freedom of expression.

“The laws of our country provide each of us with a framework that allows us to speak, write and draw as in few other places in the world,” the letter read.

“Let us recall here, in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, which paid for its freedom with the blood of its collaborators, that in France the crime of blasphemy does not exist.”

Source: Al Jazeera