France readies 10,000 troops at home

France readies 10,000 troops at home
French columnist for Charlie Hebdo Patrick Pelloux (fourth from left) and cartoonist Luz (second left) take part with family members and relatives of the 17 victims in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine).

PARIS - France will have more than 10,000 soldiers mobilised on home soil by today, after 17 people were killed in attacks carried out by Islamist militants in Paris last week, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said yesterday.

Speaking a day after the biggest French public demonstration ever registered, held to remember the victims, he said France was still at risk of further attacks.

"The threats remain and we have to protect ourselves from them. It is an internal operation that will mobilise almost as many men as we have in our overseas operations," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.

The victims, including journalists and police, lost their lives in three days of violence that began on Wednesday with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical take on Islam and other religions, as well as prominent figures including politicians.

The bloodshed ended on Friday with a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in which four hostages and another gunman were killed.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that 4,700 police officers would be deployed at all 717 Jewish schools across the country.

The first two attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, were also killed on Friday after a siege north of the capital. Police said all three men were part of the same Paris-based militant Islamist cell.

In an extraordinary show of unity, dozens of world leaders, including those from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, linked arms at the front of the march, which was spearheaded by victims' families.

All major newspapers splashed photos of the sea of humanity on the French capital's streets, with banner headlines reading "A people rise up", "Freedom on the march" and "France stands up".

During the emotional and colourful rally, which was attended by over 1.2 million people, the crowd brandished banners saying "I'm French and I'm not scared".

In tribute to the cartoonists slaughtered at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the crowd also held aloft signs saying, "Make fun, not war" and "Ink should flow, not blood".

The world leaders in attendance included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and King Abdullah of Jordan.

Some commentators said the last time crowds of this size were seen in the French capital was at the liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany in 1944.

The coordinated assaults amounted to the deadliest attack by militant Islamists on a European city since 57 people were killed in an attack on London's transport system in 2005.

A suspected female accomplice of Amedy Coulibaly, the Jewish supermarket gunman, crossed into Syria on Thursday from Turkey, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in comments posted on state-run news agency Anatolia's website yesterday.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Coulibaly likely received help from others although he did not name the female accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, by name.

"I don't want to say more, but investigations are continuing into these attacks, these barbaric terrorist acts. We think there are in fact probably accomplices," he told French radio. "The hunt will go on."

Mr Valls has admitted there were "clear failings" after it emerged that the Kouachi brothers had been on a United States terror watch list "for years". He told French radio yesterday that he wanted to see an "improved" system of tapping phones which had to perform better.

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