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Surviving Charlie Hebdo cartoonist pledges not to give in to 'gang of killers'

January 21st, 2015
02:12 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Just two weeks after an attack that left him wounded and his colleagues dead, one of the survivors of the Charlie Hebdo massacre talked to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.

Laurent Sourisseau, who goes by the name Riss and is now head of publication for the magazine, recounted what it was like to witness and survive the massacre on January 7, which left 12 dead.

“I was in the room where the killers burst into the room, opened the door. They appeared with submachine guns and a colleague who was in front of me was in front of him. As soon as I saw this scene, they started to shoot,” he told Amanpour.

“Then I lay down on the floor with my face on the ground. And then I just heard the sounds of gunfire. I could just hear the gunfire. I didn't even hear any shouting, any screaming. All I could hear was the gunfire and I had my face to the ground. At one time I heard - felt something in my shoulder and that's how it happened.”

After being hospitalized, Riss worried that the gunmen, who claimed they were avenging the Prophet Mohammed, would come back to finish what they had started.

He said he “was still anxious because they still - we still hadn't arrested the killers. So we didn't know where they were."

“So you know, and then they were carry on killing by taking people in the kosher supermarket. So I wondered if there were killers roaming around and who were looking for the survivors. So I did wonder if people were not looking for me in the hospital to finish me off.”

Four million people marched across France after the attacks in a historic display of defiance and solidarity with the victims. The survivors’ issue of Charlie Hebdo sold out within hours in France last week; seven million copies were printed instead of the usual 60,000.

Still recovering from a gunshot wound to the shoulder, the French cartoonist said this show of support was both comforting and encouraging.

“It gave me a sense of comfort because we were extremely violently attacks during those days. And we felt a little alone at that time.”

“And all those people went out into the streets comforted us and made us realize that we weren't alone. So it really comforted us and gave us the wish to continue.”

Riss seemed determined to continue publishing.

“This magazine has given me so much pleasure for so many years that we can't deprive ourselves of this pleasure because of a gang of killers, and because the surviving team wants to carry on. So this is something collective, collectively we want to carry on. And so the journal will carry on.”

How, Amanpour asked, does Charlie Hebdo plan on continuing given the colossal loss of accomplished cartoonists it suffered?

“This really is an important question because the people who died were great caricaturists or extraordinary cartoonists. You don't find cartoonists like that easily. I think we really have the work of rebuilding the magazine over the long term to give the opportunity for new cartoonists, new young cartoonists.”

Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover features a weeping Prophet Mohammed holding a “Je Suis Charlie” banner and under the heading “All is Forgiven”.

Many Muslims found it offensive, and expressed their discontent on the streets of several countries including Pakistan, Chechnya, Jordan, and Niger.

Riss explained that one should “distinguish faith and persons.”

“We have never sought to make fun of people. We have a right of a faith to believe in God. But you have a right to make fun of what the religions are saying, of dogma. There's a difference between dogma and individuals. That's the first thing.”

“You don’t have to take the caricatures for more than what they are, should not attach more importance than when you are a believer. You may not like these caricatures, but is it so serious? It's not so serious. If you don't like the magazine, you don't read it. You push it aside. And Charlie Hebdo does not stop people from believing.”

Charlie Hebdo has a long history of religious satire, and Riss said the magazine’s “principle is to make satire about all religions, [the] second principle to speak about Islam when there's something in the news.”

“We're not speaking about Islam all the time because there are many other things going on, which our magazine must speak about. So Islam is not a priority subject for us. So we will carry on speaking about religions as we've always done, not more and not less.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • France • Journalism • Latest Episode
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