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Millions March in France Against Terrorism

  • VOA News

World leaders joined nearly 4 million people in the streets of Paris and around France Sunday, in solidarity with the victims of a terror spree last week that killed 17 people.

More than 40 heads of state and government joined French President Francois Hollande in linking arms for a brief walk through Paris. Immediately to Hollande's left walked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and to his right Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. France intervened to help fight Islamist rebels there two years ago to the day.

Other leaders included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. U.S. Ambassador to France Jane Hartley represented the United States at Sunday's event.

French officials said it was the largest street demonstration in the country's history.

Late Sunday, the Interior Ministry said at least 3.7 million people demonstrated across France. A ministry spokesman said that 1.2 million to 1.6 million people had marched in Paris and about 2.5 million people in other cities around the country.

Watch video of the Paris march by VOA's Al Pessin:


Several thousand police and military forces were deployed to the streets as well.

A massive crowd remained outside for hours, filling the the route between two of the capital's major plazas, Place de la Republique and Place de la Nation.

The Paris terrorist attacks are the worst in recent French history. They have left many here - like teacher Edith Gaudin - in shock.

"I'm fed up with all the hatred in the world. I can't stand people hating each other. More than just free expression, I want people to live together and to accept each other, even if they are different,” Gaudin said.

After world leaders left the march, Hollande stayed to greet survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attack and their families.

Later Sunday night, Hollande and Netanyahu attended a memorial ceremony at the Grand Synagogue in Paris for the victims of Friday's terror attack at a kosher supermarket.

At the synagogue, Netanyahu thanked French citizens, including Muslims, for speaking out against terrorism and anti-Semitism.

Mamoun Abdelali, an imam from the Paris area, was among many Muslims at the rally denouncing militant Islam. The assailants, he said, didn't avenge the Prophet Muhammad, they insulted and dishonored him.

Another Muslim, 17-year-old Amina Tadjouri, brandished a Jewish newspaper that read: "I am Jewish, I am Charlie."

"I'm here to say that we are not OK with (the assailants). We totally disagree, Jews and Muslims, we refuse people to be killed for that. Everyone is allowed to talk, everyone is allowed to say what he wants to say…and vive la France," Tadjouri said.

Acts of terrorism

French officials have called the January 7 massacre at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo and a series of deadly attacks that followed acts of terrorism.

Twelve people, including eight journalists and two policemen, were massacred Wednesday at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for poking fun at all religions, including Islam. Two Islamic militant brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, carried out the attack. They were ambushed and killed by French police on Friday.

A video believed to show Amedy Coulibaly, who French police said is tied to the fatal shooting of a policewoman and a deadly siege of a kosher grocery store in the days after the newspaper was targeted, emerged posthumously on social media Sunday.

This screengrab taken on Jan. 11, 2015, from a video released on Islamist social networks shows a man allegedly claiming to be Amedy Coulibaly.

This screengrab taken on Jan. 11, 2015, from a video released on Islamist social networks shows a man allegedly claiming to be Amedy Coulibaly.

In it, a man describes how the killings were coordinated as retribution for the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State air campaign, in which France is a partner.

Following the attack on the grocer Friday, in which four hostages were killed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would welcome Jewish immigrants from France.

Security is expected to remain tight across the nation for weeks as investigators continue their hunt for Coulibaly's girlfriend.

Police originally suspected that 26-year-old Hayat Boumeddiene, described as armed and dangerous, was at the supermarket with her partner. But Turkish officials say the woman entered Turkey January 2 and is now likely in Syria.

Coulibaly was an associate of brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi. The siblings have been identified as perpetrators of Wednesday's attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo.

As security forces closed in on the brothers Friday outside Paris, Said Kouachi told reporters by phone that he received training and financing from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. American, European and Yemeni sources confirmed he trained with AQAP, which has publicly praised the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

Summit announced

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced from Paris Sunday that President Barack Obama would invite world leaders to Washington February 18 for a summit on countering violent extremism.

Also on Sunday, German police said they detained two men suspected in an arson attack against the Hamburger Morgenpost newspaper, which republished controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad seen in Charlie Hebdo. No one was injured.

The Belgian newspaper Le Soir was also evacuated Sunday after it received an anonymous bomb threat. The paper republished cartoons from Charlie Hebdo, which was well-known for its provocative and irreverent tone that frequently targeted religious figures.

Lisa Bryant contributed to this report from Paris. Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.

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