Hundreds of thousands of people joined by dozens of world leaders are attending a rally through Paris to honour the 17 people killed in some of the worst attacks on French soil.Among those attending Sunday’s march are family members of the 12 people killed during the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo weekly, a satirical publication that often published cartoons lampooning revered religious figures.
Assailants also targeted a kosher supermarket and police, killing five people.
Each of the families of the Charlie Hebdo staff wore a white bandana on their head with the word “Charlie” written across.
About 2,200 security personnel will guard the route of the march, which will run 3km from the historic Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in the east of Paris, France’s interior minister said, with snipers stationed on rooftops.
Some of the foreign dignitaries attending the event include David Cameron, British prime minister; Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister; German Chancellor Angela Merkel along with Sigmar Gabriel, vice-chancellor and energy minister, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, foreign minister.
Others dignitaries are Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, as well as Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Queen Rania are also attending the march.
Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said the Place de la Republique square was slowly filling with people.
“Tens and tens of thousands of people are already in the Square and more are expected,” she said.
She said French Muslims were having difficulty taking part in a march “where Israeli leaders are participants because they view them as war criminals”, an apparent reference to last summer’s offensive between the Palestinian group Hamas and Israel, which killed nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.
Paris was rocked by violence on Wednesday with an attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo, that has published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and other religious figures.
In that attack, Cherif and Said Kouachi shot dead 12 people including some of France’s best-known cartoonists.
Five other people died as assailants took people hostage and police battled the attackers to free the hostages.
Cherif told a French media outlet over the phone that he had been sent to carry out the attack by al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, which has previously launched several attempts to attack Western targets.
A senior member of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed Wednesday’s attack, saying it was an operation to avenge the honour of Prophet Muhammad.
Security officials have not confirmed the claim but at least one of the Kouachi brothers was known to have been trained by AQAP in Yemen.
As demonstrators readied to march, European ministers, as well as Eric Holder, the US attorney general, met in Paris to discuss security threats. – Al Jazeera.