Monday 17 June 2019

'France will rise up': Hollande pledges unity as a nation rallies against terror

Lise Hand in Paris, and Agencies

The Paris rally for unity against terrorism is the largest demonstration in France's history.

Calling the rally "unprecedented," the French Interior Ministry says the demonstrators are so numerous they spread beyond the official march route, making them impossible to count.

French media estimate over three million are taking part, more than the numbers who took to Paris streets when the Allies liberated the city from the Nazis in the Second World War.

Ahead of the rally, French President Francois Hollande said: "Today, Paris is the capital of the world.

"The entire country will rise up," he added.

Thousands carrying Tricolore flags and tributes to victims descended on the Place de la Republique for the march.

From the left : Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, France's President Francois Hollande, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas march during a rally in Paris (AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer, Pool)
From the left : Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, France's President Francois Hollande, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, EU President Donald Tusk, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas march during a rally in Paris (AP Photo/Philippe Wojazer, Pool)
Hayat Boumeddiene and Amedy Coulibaly (left) and Hayat with crossbow, and in the shot circulated by police
Hostages from the Hyper Cacher are led away by French police in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, 9 January 2015. Photo: Vantagenews.co.uk
A still image form video shows an explosion lighting the front of a kosher supermarket as French police special forces launch their assault, where several people were taken hostage near the Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris January 9, 2015. Two brothers suspected of a bloody attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were killed when police stormed their hideout northeast of Paris on Friday, while a second siege at the supermarket ended with the deaths of four hostages
Members of the French police special forces evacuate the hostages after launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on January 9. AFP/Getty Images
Paris
A placard reading "I am Charlie" and candles are placed as a tribute to the victims following a shooting by gunmen at the offices of French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, during a candlelight vigil in Abidjian. Reuters
People hold pencils and placards reading "I Am Charlie" (Je Suis Charlie) outside the Consulate of France in Barcelona during a tribute for victims of a terror attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris that left 12 dead. The two suspects, Said Kouachi and his brother Cherif, were killed Friday when police stormed the building where they were holed up, sources close to the investigation said (Getty Images)
People hold pencils and placards reading "I Am Charlie" (Je Suis Charlie) in front of the Consulate of France in Barcelona (Getty Images)
People start gathering at Republique square before the demonstration, in Paris, France.

Dignitaries including Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among up to 1.5 million people attending the march organised after 17 victims were killed during attacks over three days.

The Taoiseach said "Nous sommes tous Francais aujourd hui" - we are all French today".  Mr Kenny is one of 44 world leaders to take part in today's rally in the French capital in the aftermath of the violent attacks by Islamist jihadis this week which left 17 people and the three gunmen dead.

Commenting on reports that Ireland is a hub for jihadist activity, he said, "This matter is being monitored very carefully by the security authorities in Ireland." Mr Kenny was speaking after a meeting with the French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Also taking part in the huge march in solidarity with the shocked citizens are German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Cameron, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Auhtority president, Mahmood Abbas.

A woman has taped her mouth displaying the word Freedom on the tape, as she gathers with several thousand people in solidarity with victims of two terrorist attacks in Paris (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A woman has taped her mouth displaying the word Freedom on the tape, as she gathers with several thousand people in solidarity with victims of two terrorist attacks in Paris (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
A general view shows hundreds of thousands of French citizens taking part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris REUTERS/Yves Herman
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
A general view shows hundreds of thousands of French citizens taking part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015. French citizens will be joined by dozens of foreign leaders, among them Arab and Muslim representatives, in a march on Sunday in an unprecedented tribute to this week's victims following the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the killing of a police woman in Montrouge, and the hostage taking at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard (FRANCE - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS CIVIL UNREST SOCIETY)
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
A statue is modified with a pencil in a show of defiance as demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
A pencil is held aloft in a show of defiance as demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France.
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France.
PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 11: Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A giant figure depicting Marianne, the symbol of France, is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of French citizens taking part in a solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France.
The National Gallery in London's Trafalgar Square is illuminated with the colours of the French Tricolore flag, in support of the victims of recent terrorist attacks in France, including on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
A journalist holds up a placard as he joins with other Lebanese and foreign journalists, activists and intellectuals during a sit-in to show their solidarity with the victims of Wednesday's attack in Paris on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France. An estimated one million people are expected to converge in central Paris for the Unity March joining in solidarity with the 17 victims of this week's terrorist attacks in the country. French President Francois Hollande will lead the march and will be joined by world leaders in a sign of unity. The terrorist atrocities started on Wednesday with the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12, and ended on Friday with sieges at a printing company in Dammartin en Goele and a Kosher supermarket in Paris with four hostages and three suspects being killed. A fourth suspect, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, escaped and is wanted in connection with the murder of a policewoman. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
French President Francois Hollande (R) speaks with Joel Mergui (C), President of the Central Jewish Consistory of France) and representatives of French Jewish associations after a meeting at the Elysee Palace on January 11, 2015
French President Francois Hollande (R) speaks with Joel Mergui (C), President of the Central Jewish Consistory of France) and representatives of French Jewish associations after a meeting at the Elysee Palace on January 11, 2015
The President of the CRIF (Representative Council of France's Jewish Associations) Roger Cukierman (2R) and the President of the Central Jewish Consistory of France, Joel Mergui (2L), speak to the media after a meeting between French President and French Jewish associations at the Elysee Palace on January 11, 2015, in Paris, France.
Posters are hung near to Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France.
Posters are hung near to Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks on January 11, 2015 in Paris, France
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
Demonstrators gather near Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks
A statue is modified with a pen in a show of defiance as demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique prior to a mass unity rally to be held in Paris following the recent terrorist attacks

Earlier on his arrival in Paris, Mr Kenny reiterated Ireland's support. "Today we march to show that Liberte, Egalite, Fraternity are written, not alone on the history and monuments of the Fifth Republic but in the hearts and minds of the people of France and our European Union," he said.

"Voltaire wrote that ‘tolerance is the consequence of our humanity’. And today we march here in his city to defend that tolerance and humanity against the hatred and extremism that would dismantle and destroy them. In our solidarity we show the agents of such destruction that to us their actions are anathema, their propositions absurd," he added.

All public transport - buses, trains and the Metro was running free of charge in the capital today, to facilitate the enormous crowds expected at the rally. From lunchtime, the Place de la Republique was a sea of French tricolours and placards bearing the now-familiar slogan 'Je Suis Charlie', with the crowd chanting "Charlie, Liberte". Calling on the French people to take part, President Hollande said, "Today, Paris is the centre of the world".

Thousands of police and troops have been deployed to tighten security ahead of the march, which comes after rallies across France on Saturday already drew more than 700,000 in support of the victims of the three-day killing spree.

Around 2,200 police and soldiers will guard the route of the march, which will run three kilometres 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.

Meanwhile, a video has emerged showing terrorist Amedy Coulibaly defending the atrocities and swearing allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

Read more: Watch: Paris gunman appears in video and declares loyalty to Islamic State

The 32-year-old killed a policewoman and four hostages at a Jewish supermarket in separate attacks planned to follow the massacre of 12 people by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

In the seven-minute clip, reportedly released on Twitter by IS this morning - two days after Coulibaly's death during a police assault on the kosher store where he had taken several hostages - he describes the strikes as "completely legitimate".

It came as Coulibaly was linked to the shooting of a jogger in a Paris suburb on the same day as the Charlie Hebdo massacres. A prosecutor said ballistics tests on shell cases from the shooting on Wednesday connected them to an automatic weapon used at the Jewish supermarket attacked in the east of the capital two days later.

Coulibaly's girlfriend Hayat Boumeddiene remains on the run, amid reports that she may have fled to Syria before all three killers died in co-ordinated police strikes on Friday.

Read more: Paris shootings: France's most wanted woman Hayat Boumeddiene has 'escaped to Syria'

With France still on high alert, a huge security operation has been deployed to combat the threat of fresh attacks.

More than 5,000 police and soldiers have been mobilised for the rally, with marksmen positioned on surrounding rooftops and security teams scouring drains.

Around 50 heads of state and government are gathering with Mr Hollande at the Elysee Palace before embarking on what is billed an unprecedented show of international solidarity near the head of the march through the capital.

Among those alongside Mr Cameron in a phalanx of senior figures marching behind the families of victims are expected to be Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, German chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko - with Russia also represented by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Read more: Hero who tried to save other hostages and paid with his life

Also attending are Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu - who has directly encouraged French and other European Jews to flee the threat of terror and move to Israel.

Mr Hollande is due to meet leaders of the Jewish community before the march.

The US will be represented by attorney general Eric Holder, who is in the city along with other security ministers including Mrs May, for talks about the threat posed by Islamist extremism.

Public transport has been made free all day to encourage people to attend without cars.

The now-familiar slogan of solidarity "Je Suis Charlie" - or "I Am Charlie" after the name of the satirical magazine - is to be seen everywhere, from bus shelter posters along the route to the corner of the screens of public television stations.

Read more: Massive security op as France is ready to mourn its dead

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