Record crowds have turned out in Paris and in other cities across France for unity marches after three days of terror that shook the capital.
Organisers of the “Unity March” in the capital earlier said between 1.3 and 1.5 million turned out. Other estimates say the figure was closer to two million; the government said it was impossible to keep count.
The turnout appears to have surpassed the previous record for the largest ever rally in France in modern times: the liberation of Paris after World War Two.
Around 40 world leaders arrived in Paris to join the show of force, which came after similar rallies on Saturday in France and across the globe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron were in attendance. Cameron has said that the jihadist threat will be “with us for many years to come”.
British intelligence service MI5 warned Europe that Islamist militants were planning attacks in the West and added that three terror plots have been foiled on British soil in recent weeks.
Also today there is confirmation of another victim of the terror attacks in the French capital. The Paris Prosecutor says tests on bullet cartridges found at the site where a jogger was shot and wounded on Wednesday night match the gun found at the scene of a deadly supermarket hostage-taking on Friday.
This new development would indicate that the gunman who shot dead a policewoman and then four hostages at the supermarket also tried to kill a jogger on the same day of the Charlie Hebdo attack, which left 12 people dead.
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu joined the line up of world leaders to honour the victims of the attacks, reminding French Jews that Israel would be happy to welcome them as immigrants. He said “Israel is also your home”, after the attacks appeared to target the Jewish community.
One notable absence among the leaders was American President Barack Obama. The US sent Attorney General Eric Holder.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said “Europe will win the battle against terrorism.” In more controversial comments the Spanish Interior Minister was quoted as saying that Europe may need to rethink it’s Schengen border-free zone in order to fight the threat of Islamist militants.
The leaders held a minute’s silence.
France remains on high alert as reports emerge that sleeper cells have been activated.
In Paris, more than 2000 police and 1000 security forces were deployed along the march routes, including snipers. They were placed along the march routes starting in Place de la Republique and ending at Place de la Nation.
A tribute to the victims
The Paris march was also led by the families of the victims of the attacks.
They arrived at the march via Boulevard Voltaire, the French writer who coined the motto which has been taken up by the #JeSuisCharlie movement: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
In all 17 people were killed in separate incidents which began with the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
Three gunmen were killed by police.
In a touching tribute one young girl at the Paris march held aloft a sign saying: “When I grow up I want to be a journalist, I’m not afraid.”
Others left flowers in memory of the policeman shot dead on Wednesday.
Passing demonstrators leave flowers at the spot where policeman Ahmed Merabet was shot dead this week pic.twitter.com/WZ9kOixhYJ— Ruadhán Mac Cormaic (@RuadhanIT) January 11, 2015
A country united
Rallies in other cities have attracted huge crowds.
- Paris 1.5 million – 2 million
- Lyon more than 300,000
- Bordeaux at least 100,000
- Rennes at least 100,000
- Grenoble 70,000
- Clermont-Ferrand 50,000
- Tours 35,000
- Vienne around 12,000
One person in Lyon tweeted that the crowd was respectful, serene and determined.
Another person taking part in the Lyon march tweeted that it was something they had never seen before, saying it’s an “intense moment”.
Du jamais vu ! C'est incroyable … Moment intense #LyonEstCharlie— Erwan Sence (@ErwanSence) January 11, 2015
Today Paris is the capital of the world
Ahead of the rally the French President said that today Paris is the capital of the world. Scenes of streets packed with people holding similar marches across the globe appear to confirm his rhetoric.
AFP in Stockholm tweets that around 2,000 have braved the icy weather to show their support for France.
AFP Nordic (@AFPNordic) January 11, 2015
European Commissioners tweeted their presence at the Brussels rally. The EU will be holding a special summit on January 12 on counter terrorism measures.
With fellow Commissioners— Cecilia Malmström (@MalmstromEU) January 11, 2015
CorinaCretuEU</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/V_Andriukaitis">V_Andriukaitis in the #JeSuisCharlie solidarity march in Brussels /JL pic.twitter.com/QnhecaVJwL
EU blogger Andy Carling tweeted that the town of famous cartoon Tintin, Brussels has turned out for #JeSuisCharlie.
Brits gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square.
mandraud</a> is in Moscow at Gorky Park, covering the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JeSuisCharlie?src=hash">#JeSuisCharlie</a> solidarity march. <a href="http://t.co/LS4qPKt4kT">pic.twitter.com/LS4qPKt4kT</a></p>— Kevin Rothrock (KevinRothrock) January 11, 2015
Ankara. pic.twitter.com/VLrwvep9Io Via AFP— Andy Carvin (@acarvin) January 11, 2015
We are together! Today
youth_comm</a> at Syntagma <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JeSuisCharlie?src=hash">#JeSuisCharlie</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Athens?src=hash">#Athens</a> <a href="http://t.co/bopapLMC22">pic.twitter.com/bopapLMC22</a></p>— Youth Community (youth_comm) January 11, 2015
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