President Obama on Wednesday vowed to “hunt down” those responsible for the “cowardly, evil attacks” on a Parisian satirical newspaper, saying the U.S. would provide French authorities with “every bit of assistance that we can going forward.”

“For us, to see the kind of cowardly, evil attacks that took place today reinforces once again why it is so important for us to stand in solidarity with them,” Obama said ahead of an unscheduled meeting with Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Feehery: Biden seems intent on repeating the same mistakes of Jimmy Carter MORE and Vice President Biden in the Oval Office.


“The fact that this was an attack on journalists, an attack on our free press, also underscores the extent to which these terrorists fear freedom of speech and freedom of the press,” Obama continued.

A dozen people were killed and three others were critically wounded when gunmen opened fire at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper known for provocative comics that often poked fun at religion.

Obama said the U.S. would bring those responsible to justice, "and roll up the networks that helped to advance these kind of plots.” The president added he was instructing his national security team to “make sure we remain vigilant” in protecting Americans across the globe.

Obama said he had not yet had an opportunity to speak directly to French President Francois Hollande, but that he hoped to have the opportunity later on Wednesday. Obama is scheduled to depart Washington in the early afternoon and travel to Detroit for a speech on the economy.

“I thought it was appropriate for me to express my deepest sympathies to the people of Paris, the people of France for the terrible terrorist attack that took place earlier today,” Obama said. “I think that all of us recognize France is one of our oldest allies, our strongest allies — they have been with us every moment.”

Charlie Hebdo has frequently drawn condemnation and threats from Muslims over its decisions to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and its offices were firebombed in 2011 after the paper featured a sketch of the religious leader on its cover.

In 2012, the White House questioned the newspaper’s decision to publish the cartoons, saying the images were “deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory.”

But then-press secretary Jay Carney said that the imagers were “not in any way a justification for violence” and that the U.S. supported the magazine’s right to publish the cartoons.

“In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it,” Carney said.

Shortly before Wednesday’s attack, the paper tweeted a cartoon mocking the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has threatened to attack France and other nations cooperating in the U.S.-led campaign against it.


Earlier Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told MSNBC that senior national security officials at the White House and at top U.S. national security agencies had “been in close touch with their counterparts in France.”

Earnest said it was not yet known who was responsible for the terror attack in Paris but said the U.S. was “very cognizant” that ISIS was working to recruit sympathizers to launch terror attacks in their home countries. The White House has repeatedly warned of the threat of so-called foreign fighters who might launch domestic terror attacks after returning from fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq or Syria.

“We are obviously trying to monitor what we believe is a really important threat which is the threat of foreign fighters,” Earnest said. “So it is clear that [ISIS] does harbor the ambition to radicalize people around the globe.”

The White House also said it would continue to monitor whether it would be necessary to step up the security posture at U.S. military and diplomatic facilities following the Paris attack.

But the State Department said it did not have plans to close the U.S. Embassy in Paris, which is located only a few miles from the newspaper’s offices.

“That’s certainly something that is always on the mind of the president and senior members of his team here, is, ‘Are we doing everything that we need to do to make sure we are protecting the American people, particularly the American people abroad?’ ” Earnest said. “So I’m confident our experts will be evaluating if additional steps will be taken to harden our military facilities or additional steps to secure our diplomatic facilities.”

--This report was originally published at 8:07 a.m. and last updated at 12:55 p.m.