World leaders join Paris march of 'millions' for attack victims

World leaders join Paris march of 'millions' for attack victims
A woman holds a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie" (I am Charlie) and holds up a pen during a march attended by an estimated 75,000 in Nantes, western France, on January 10, 2015.

PARIS - Millions of people were expected to join a march through Paris Sunday in solidarity with the victims of the Islamist attacks, with dozens of world leaders to attend the show of support for France.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls predicted the massive turnout to honour the 17 killed in the attacks which targeted a satirical magazine, kosher supermarket and police.

"I have no doubt that millions of citizens will come to express their love of liberty, their love of fraternity," he told thousands gathered Saturday near where a gunman killed four hostages at the supermarket.

France has deployed thousands of police and troops to beef up security ahead of the march, which follows rallies across France on Saturday which drew more than 700,000 in support of the victims of the three-day killing spree.

"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.

A security force of around 2,200 will guard the route of Sunday's march, which will run three kilometres (1.9 miles) from the historic Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in the east of the capital, the interior minister said, with snipers stationed on rooftops.

Dozens of world leaders including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were set to attend Sunday's march.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and the king and queen of Jordan are also among those set to take part.

Public transport will be free to ease access into and throughout Paris and international train operator Thalys said it was also cutting fares to the French capital on Sunday.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged her supporters to attend rallies outside Paris, but not in the capital, denouncing the exclusion of her Front National party from preparations for the event.

Gunman's girlfriend still sought

The three gunmen responsible for the three-day reign of terror were shot dead by police on Friday, with investigators trying to track down the girlfriend of one of them.

Despite earlier being described as "armed and dangerous", security sources later revealed that 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene was not in fact in France at the time of the killings.

Her partner Amedy Coulibaly shot dead a young policewoman on Thursday and then killed four hostages in a siege at a Jewish supermarket in Paris on Friday.

While police initially suspected Boumeddiene may have had a role in her partner's violent acts, a Turkish security source told AFP she arrived in Turkey on January 2 and had since likely travelled on to Syria.

The three-day killing spree began Wednesday at the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that saw Cherif and Said Kouachi massacre 12 people including some of the country's best-known cartoonists. A day later, Coulibaly shot dead the policewoman.

The massive manhunt for the two brothers developed into a car chase Friday and then a tense standoff as they took one person hostage in a printing firm northeast of Paris.

The small town of Dammartin-en-Goele was transformed into what looked like a war zone, with elite forces deploying snipers, helicopters and heavy-duty military equipment as they surrounded the pair.

With all eyes on the siege outside Paris, suddenly explosions and gunfire shook the City of Light itself as Coulibaly stormed a Jewish supermarket on the eastern fringes of the capital.

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