More than 200,000 rally in France after Charlie Hebdo attacks

AFP , Saturday 10 Jan 2015

Charlie Hebdo
People take part in a silent procession in tribute to the victims of the shooting at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in Nice, southeastern France (Photo: AP)

More than 200,000 people took to streets in France Saturday to show their solidarity after three days of bloody attacks in which 17 people died at the hands of Islamic extremists, according to a tally of various demonstrations.

In the southern city of Toulouse, police said around 80,000 people took part in a march, with the "enormous" procession stretching up to two-kilometres, according to an AFP journalist.

"Live together, free, equal and in solidarity," read the banner behind which at least 30,000 people also marched in the western city of Nantes.

In Pau in the southwest, a further 30,000 to 40,000 people staged a silent march with school pupils leading the way holding a banner emblazoned with the words: "We are all Charlie".

"It's a great popular movement... it's beautiful and significant, infinitely precious," the city's mayor Francois Bayrou told AFP.

In eastern Besancon, another 20,000 took to the streets, an AFP correspondent said, while in northern Orleans around 22,000 rallied, according to a police source.

In Nice, at least 23,000 demonstrators were counted, police sources said, in a demonstration which snaked for around a kilometre along the famous seafront Promenade des Anglais, ending at the war memorial where a wreath was laid in the presence of representatives of different faiths.

A further 22,000 people turned out in northern Lille and thousands more in several other towns and cities across France.

The rallies come ahead of a march expected to draw about a million people on Sunday in which French President Francois Hollande will be joined by a host of world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Others due to participate include Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and US Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Prime Ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and Turkey will also attend along with the presidents of Mali, Niger and Ukraine.

President Hollande will also be joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, president of the European Union Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

"This will be an extraordinary demonstration.... which must show the power and the dignity of the French people who are going to proclaim their love of freedom and tolerance," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said.

Ahead of that mass rally in Paris, hundreds of troops were on Saturday deployed around the city, which is already on the highest possible alert.

Following a crisis meeting, the French government announced that all necessary measures would be taken to ensure the safety of those attending.

The three-day killing spree by three Islamic militants ended on Friday following a massive police operation triggered by Wednesday's attack on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were murdered.

All three gunmen died in final confrontations with police.

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