PARIS - More than a million people and dozens of world leaders were expected to march through Paris on Sunday in a historic display of global defiance against extremism after Islamist attacks that left 17 dead.
In an unprecedented show of unity, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority will both attend the rally to honour the victims of three days of bloodshed that claimed the lives of both Jews and a Muslim police officer.
Security was beefed up as the City of Light reeled from the Islamist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket, with thousands of extra troops and police deployed to guard the march and snipers positioned along the route.
"I have no doubt that millions of citizens will come to express their love of liberty, their love of fraternity," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told an emotional rally on Saturday near where a gunman killed four hostages at the supermarket.
In a foretaste of the demonstration, more than 700,000 people poured onto the streets of cities across France on Saturday, many carrying banners reading "jesuischarlie" (I am Charlie), the tribute to Charlie Hebdo that has been the global rallying point in the wake of the slaughter.
Many brandished pens to symbolise freedom of expression after Charlie Hebdo was targeted for its cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.
"The real battle is to defend freedom of thought," said 40-year-old Yamina, tears in her eyes, at a rally in the southern city of Marseille.
Along with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the king and queen of Jordan will be present and a host of top European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
US President Barack Obama will be represented by Attorney General Eric Holder, who will also take part in an emergency meeting of interior ministers to discuss the threats posed by Islamic extremism.
President Francois Hollande, who will lead the tributes to the victims, has warned his shell-shocked country not to drop its guard in the face of possible new attacks.
After the three-day rampage by three gunmen claiming to be members of the Al-Qaeda and Islamic State extremist groups came a chilling new threat from the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula group.
AQAP top sharia official Harith al-Nadhari warned France to "stop your aggression against the Muslims" or face further attacks, in comments released by the SITE monitoring group.
German newspaper Bild said the bloodshed in France could signal the start of a wave of attacks in Europe, citing communications by Islamic State leaders intercepted by US intelligence.
It said the US National Security Agency had intercepted communications in which leaders of the jihadist group announced the next wave of attacks, the mass circulation daily said in its Sunday edition, citing unnamed sources in the US intelligence services.
Early Sunday, a German newspaper in the northern port city of Hamburg that reprinted Mohammed cartoons from Charlie Hebdo was the target of an arson attack although no one was hurt.