Obama pledges U.S. help on probe of Paris attack

The United States will help France track down the killers of at least a dozen people during a “cowardly, evil” attack on the Paris office of a satirical magazine, President Obama said Wednesday.

“The fact that this was an attack on journalists … also underscores the degree to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Obama told reporters before meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden.

Describing France as one of the U.S.’s oldest and strongest allies, Obama said: “For us to see the kind of cowardly, evil attacks that took place today, I think, reinforces once again why it’s so important for us to stand in solidarity with them, just as they stand in solidarity with us.”

Obama later spoke by phone with French President Francois Hollande. According to a White House statement, the president “reiterated his earlier remarks that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones, and that Americans stand beside the people of France in the aftermath of this outrage. He offered the resources of the United States as France works to identify, apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators and anyone who helped plan or enable this terrorist attack.”

In the deadliest attack in France since World War II, three masked gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar!” as they stormed the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The magazine had been under threat over a series of cartoons lampooning the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Noting that France and the United States have long worked on counter-terrorism, Obama said the United States will provide France with “every bit of assistance that we can” in tracking down the killers, who escaped amid the mayhem.

“It’s going to be important for us to make sure that we recognize these kinds of attacks can happen anywhere in the world,” Obama said.

The U.S. wants to help “hunt down and bring the perpetrators of this specific act to justice, and to roll up the networks that help to advance these kinds of plots,” Obama said.

In paying tribute to the people of France, Obama said the “beautiful city” of Paris represents “the culture and the civilization that is so central to our imaginations,” and it will endure.

“And those who carry out senseless attacks against innocent civilians — ultimately, they’ll be forgotten,” he said.

In a written statement issued earlier in the day, Obama said that “”France is America’s oldest ally” and “has stood shoulder to shoulder” with the United States in the fight against terrorism.

“Time and again,” he said, “the French people have stood up for the universal values that generations of our people have defended.”

In offering prayers for the victims and the people of France, Obama said U.S. national security officials are in contact with French counterparts, and ” I have directed my administration to provide any assistance needed to help bring these terrorists to justice.”

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