Millions of people took to the streets in France on Sunday, in the largest ever popular demonstration in the country’s history, to show their solidarity and defiance following the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
At least 3.7 million people took part in unity marches across the nation, with the capital city Paris alone drawing a crowd of between 1.2 million to 1.6 million, Reuters quoted a French Interior Ministry spokesman as saying.
More than 40 world leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, joined the start of the Paris march, linking arms in an act of solidarity.
Demonstrating unity after the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, police officers, and a kosher supermarket by Islamist gunmen, the rally sent a powerful message that the world will not be intimidated in the face of terrorism.
Observers noted that the last time crowds of this size filled the streets of Paris was at the Liberation of the city from Nazi Germany in 1944.
Seventeen people, including journalists and police, were killed in three days of violence that began last Wednesday with a shooting attack on the political weekly Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions.
A massive hunt for the attackers culminated Friday in twin hostage dramas that ended with three gunmen being shot dead by the police after sieges at a print works outside Paris and a kosher supermarket in Paris.
One of the three gunmen appeared in a video released online on Sunday, declaring his allegiance to the Islamic State armed group and urging French Muslims to follow his example.
In the seven-minute video apparently intended for release after the actions, Amedy Coulibaly, who staged the attack on a Jewish deli, said the planned assaults on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish target were justified by French military interventions overseas.
French security forces killed Coulibaly, 32, on Friday after he planted explosives at the Paris deli in a siege that claimed the lives of four hostages.
Minutes earlier, anti-terrorism police shot dead two brothers behind the Hebdo killings, Said and Cherif Kouachi, after they took refuge in a print works outside Paris.
The Kouachi brothers said they were aligned to al Qaeda.
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