Foreign leaders join 4m French in march against Paris terror killings

ft.com – More than 3.7m people marched in the streets of Paris and across France on Sunday in a defiant display of unity against terrorism and racism, after the deadliest attacks on French soil in more than half a century struck the nation at its core.

The dense and determined crowd flooded Paris’s Place de la République to pay tribute to the 17 victims murdered in attacks over three days last week by Islamist extremists targeting French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police forces and a Jewish supermarket. More than 50 foreign leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Africa linked arms.

“Paris is today the capital of the world,” Mr Hollande said. “France is going to rise to its best.”

Unprecedented numbers of marchers, many with very young children, braved the increased terror threats by chanting La Marseillaise, waving “Je Suis Charlie” signs and applauding police squads over Friday’s denouement, which resulted in the three suspects being killed in dramatic assaults by special forces.

There was a festival mood despite the rain and the squashed crowds that had been brought to a standstill near Place de la République started singing All You Need is Love by The Beatles, after hearing the music playing from an apartment above.

The demonstration — of 1.2m to 1.6m in Paris, according to the interior ministry — has put the spotlight on Mr Hollande, who had recently been deemed in opinion polls to be the most unpopular president in recent French history before the attacks. He and his government are widely credited with having reacted solidly after Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo and Friday’s Jewish hostage crisis.

Struggling to improve his international stature before the events, the French president has received overwhelming support from the international community, with German chancellor Angela Merkel, British prime minister David Cameron, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, among others, at the march.

But the country remains in shock after the terror attacks that left cartoonists, security guards, police officers and Jewish hostages dead at the hands of armed religious extremists known to the French authorities.
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who convened a G10 security meeting on Sunday morning, said his counterparts had agreed that more collaboration was needed to share information on dangerous jihadis and combat Islamist propaganda on the internet.
He added that Europe would tighten border controls, saying: “We are resolute in fighting against terrorism.”

The meeting took place as it emerged that Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist killed in the supermarket raid, had in a video pledged allegiance to Isis, and that Hayat Boumeddiene, his 26-year-old wife named as a fourth suspect by police, had most likely fled to Syria.

Coulibaly, whom authorities believe fatally shot a policewoman in a Paris street the day before attacking the supermarket, said in the video that he and the Kouachi brothers — who attacked the Charlie Hebdo office — had collaborated.
“We have split our team into two . . . to increase the impact of our actions,” he said.

Before the final assault by special forces, Cherif Kouachi, one of the brothers, claimed he had received funding from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The brothers had travelled to Yemen in 2011.
However, Eric Holder, the US attorney-general who attended the security meeting in Paris, said: “We don’t have any credible information, at least of yet, to indicate who was responsible — who sponsored this act.”

The White House said it would hold an international summit next month on how to fight “violent extremism” and deal with homegrown radicalism.
Mr Holder said the summit, which would bring together leaders from around the world, would look at new ways to share information and resources on terrorist threats.
The French cabinet was due to meet on Monday morning to further discuss the government’s response to the crisis.

Anne-Sylvaine Chassany, Richard Milne and Adam Thomson in Paris
“Foreign leaders join 4m French in march against Paris terror killings”
January 12, 2015

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