What is Charlie Hebdo? A history of controversy

The French publication is the scene of a suspected terror attack in which 12 people were killed.

Firefighters and rescue services gather near the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January, 2015, after armed gunmen stormed the offices leaving eleven dead, including two police officers, according to sources close to the investigation. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - At around 1:30pm the term "Charlie Hebdo" started trending on Twitter worldwide, sparking a frenzy of retweets and a search for more information.

Charlie Hedbo is an edgy French weekly magazine which was founded in 1970 and is based in Paris. It closed 11 years later, but was revived in 1992 and has been running since then.

The magazine takes a satirical look at current affairs, often featuring hard-hitting cartoons. Its team regularly mocks many religious faiths, politicians and popular public figures.

The cover below, which reads "Love is stronger than hate", led the edition it published a week after Charlie Hebdo's office was firebombed. The attack was linked to a controversial issue which the magazine claimed had been guest-edited by the prophet Mohammed.

The magazine was at it again less than a year later when it again published several controversial cartoons of the Islamic holy man. This prompted the French government to either shut down or increase security at a number of embassies around the world.

On Wednesday morning, the usual buzz of the magazine's diary was shattered when two masked gunmen attacked the Charlie Hebdo office armed with a rocket launcher and machine guns.

[WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT] Video footage has emerged showing masked gunmen killing a man believed to be a French law enforcement officer.