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Monday, January 12, 2015, 09:21

World leaders join in tribute

By Agencies in Paris
World leaders join in tribute

French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by other heads of states as they attend the solidarity march in the streets of Paris on Sunday. (Agencies)

World leaders join in tribute

A crowd gathers in Place de la Republique before a march in Paris on Sunday. The rally of defiance and sorrow, protected by an unparalleled level of security, honored the 17 victims of three days of bloodshed in Paris that left France on alert for more violence. (Aurent Cipriani / Associated Press)

Dozens of world leaders including Muslim and Jewish statesmen joined hundreds of thousands of French citizens marching in Paris amid high security in an unpredecented tribute to victims of this week's Islamist militant attacks.

President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Britain and the Palestinian territories among others, moved off from the central Place de la Republique ahead of a sea of French and other flags. Giant letters attached to a statue in the square spelled out the word "Pourquoi?" (Why?) and small groups sang "La Marseillaise", the French national anthem.

Some 2,200 police and soldiers patrolled Paris streets to protect marchers from would-be attackers, with police snipers on rooftops and plainclothes detectives mingling with the crowd. City sewers were searched ahead of the vigil and underground train stations around the march route were due to be closed down.

The silent march - which may prove the largest seen in modern times through Paris - reflects shock over the worst militant Islamist assault on a European city in nine years. For France, it raised questions of free speech, religion and security, and beyond French frontiers it exposed the vulnerability of states to urban attacks.

"Paris is today the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up and show its best side," said Hollande in a statement.

Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began with a shooting attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday and ended with a hostage-taking at a kosher supermarket in which four hostages were killed.

World leaders join in tribute

Thousands of Montrealers march to the French Consulate, in tribute to the victims of the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in downtown Montreal, January 11, 2015. (Photo / Agencies)

World leaders join in tribute

Montrealers place pencils in front of the French Consulate, in tribute to the victims of the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in downtown Montreal, January 11, 2015. (Photo / Agencies)

The man pledged allegiance to the Islamic State insurgent group and urged French Muslims to follow his example. A French anti-terrorist police source confirmed it was the killer, Amedy Coulibaly, speaking before the action.

"We're not going to let a little gang of hoodlums run our lives," said Fanny Appelbaum, 75, who said she lost two sisters and a brother in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. "Today, we are all one."

Zakaria Moumni, a 34-year-old Franco-Moroccan draped in the French flag, agreed: "I am here to show the terrorists they have not won - it is bringing people together of all religions."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were among 44 foreign leaders marching with Hollande. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu - who earlier encouraged French Jews to emigrate to Israel - and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were also present.

"(The march) will be an unprecedented demonstration that will be go down in the history books," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

The United States will host a summit on Feb 18 on how to fight "violent extremism around the world" in the wake of the Paris attacks, US Attorney General Eric Holder said on Sunday.

Speaking in the French capital after a meeting with European security ministers following this week's Islamist militant attacks, Holder said the meeting would take place in Washington under the auspices of President Barack Obama.

Reuters - AFP

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