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Charlie Hebdo Poked Fun At Popes And Presidents Too, Not Just Prophets

07/01/2015 15:59 GMT | Updated 07/01/2015 17:00 GMT

Charlie Hebdo, the French newspaper where 12 people were killed in an attack on Wednesday, has long poked fun at popes and presidents, as well as the Prophet Muhammad.

The satirical weekly has a history of drawing outrage across the Muslim world with crude cartoons of Islam's holiest figure.

The magazine's offices were firebombed in November 2011 after it published a spoof issue that "invited" Muhammad to be its guest editor and put his caricature on the cover.

charlie hebdo front cover

Pope Benedict XVI has featured on the newspaper's cover...

A year later, the magazine published more Muhammad drawings amid an uproar over an anti-Muslim film.

The cartoons depicted Muhammad naked and in demeaning or pornographic poses. As outraged grew, the French government defended free speech even as it rebuked Charlie Hebdo for fanning tensions.

The small-circulation weekly leans toward the left and takes pride in making acerbic commentary on world affairs through cartoons and spoof reports.

charlie hebdo front cover

...As has former French president Nicholas Sarkozy

"We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras, some use computers. For us, it's a paper and pencil," the Muhammad cartoonist, who goes by the name Luz, told The Associated Press in 2012.

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"A pencil is not a weapon. It's just a means of expression."

Editor Stephane Charbonnier, among the 10 journalists killed on Wednesday, also defended the Muhammad cartoons speaking to The AP in 2012.

charlie hebdo

Emergency crews at the scene in Paris on Wednesday

"Muhammad isn't sacred to me," said Charbonnier, who used the pen name Charb.

"I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don't live under Quranic law."

Islam is not alone in being singled out by Charlie Hebdo's satire.

charlie hebdo paris shooting

Two suspects were filmed leaping out of a car and pointing their weapons at a fallen policeman

Past covers include retired Pope Benedict XVI in amorous embrace with a Vatican guard; former French President Nicolas Sarkozy looking like a sick vampire; and an Orthodox Jew kissing a Nazi soldier.

The magazine occasionally publishes investigative journalism, taking aim at France's high and mighty.

Charlie Hebdo has come under pressure ever since its 2011 Muhammad issue.

Its website has been hacked. It faced a lawsuit over the prophet cartoons. Riot police once guarded its offices. Charb lived under police protection — and his body guard was killed on Wednesday along with another officer.

Paris Shooting

Charb told Le Monde newspaper two years ago: "I'd rather die standing than live on my knees."

One of his last cartoons, published in this week's issue, seemed an eerie premonition.

"Still no attacks in France," an extremist fighter says.

"Wait — we have until the end of January to present our New Year's wishes."