Over 1m people, world leaders honour victims

Over 1m people, world leaders honour victims
SHOW OF SUPPORT: The scene at the Place de la Republique (Republic Square) in Paris before the start of the "Marche Republicaine" rally yesterday, in tribute to the 17 victims of a three-day killing spree by home-grown extremists.

PARIS - More than a million people and dozens of world leaders marched through Paris yesterday in a historic display of global defiance against extremism after militant attacks that left 17 dead last week.

In an unprecedented show of unity, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority were among the world leaders attending the rally to honour the victims of three days of bloodshed that included Jews and a Muslim police officer among the dead.

Under clear blue skies, emotions ran high in the shell-shocked City of Light, as people from all walks of life rallied under the banner of freedom of speech and liberty.

"I want to show that we're not scared of the extremists. I want to defend freedom of expression," said Jacqueline Saad-Rouana, 70.

"Today, Paris is the capital of the world," said President Francois Hollande. "The entire country will rise up and show its sweet side," he told ministers.

Defences were beefed up with the city still reeling from the extremist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, the king and queen of Jordan as well as a host of top European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron, were present.

United States President Barack Obama was represented by Attorney-General Eric Holder, who also took part in an emergency meeting of interior ministers to discuss the threats posed by Islamic extremism.

The ministers called for a strengthening of the European Union's external borders to limit the movement of extremists returning to Europe from the Middle East and said there was an "urgent need" to share European air passenger information.

Mr Holder also announced that the US will host a summit on Feb 18 on how to fight "violent extremism around the world". He added that the meeting would also aim to "pool our resources".

The German newspaper Bild yesterday said that US intelligence had intercepted communications in which Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leaders said the Paris attacks were just the prelude for a wave of violence in Europe.

Early yesterday, a German newspaper in the northern port city of Hamburg that reprinted Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo was the target of an arson attack, although no one was hurt.

France's three days of terror ended on Friday with police killing the Charlie Hebdo attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, and a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, who had shot dead a policewoman on Thursday and killed four hostages in the Jewish supermarket.

Hours before the march, a video apparently made by Coulibaly appeared online. In it, he said the gunmen coordinated their efforts and claimed he was a member of ISIS, who was avenging attacks by the international community on the extremist group.

Investigators are trying to hunt down his partner, 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, who was initially suspected of having a role in the policewoman's killing.

However, a Turkish security source told AFP that Boumeddiene had arrived in Turkey on Jan 2 and the authorities presume she has since travelled on to Syria.

The attacks were France's bloodiest for more than half a century, with questions mounting about how the gunmen slipped through the net of intelligence services despite being known to authorities.

Coulibaly's mother and sisters on Saturday condemned his actions.

"We absolutely do not share these extreme ideas. We hope there will not be any confusion between these odious acts and the Muslim religion," they wrote in a statement.

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