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Million join Paris unity march

More than one million people have marched through Paris and thousands more gathered in cities around the world in a moving and defiant display of unity in the wake of the France terror attacks.

Prime Minister David Cameron was among dozens of world leaders who linked arms as the streets of the French capital swelled with enormous crowds in what was believed to be largest demonstration in the country's history.

Ahead of the rally, French President Francois Hollande said: "Today, Paris is the capital of the world." Mr Cameron later described the event as "very moving".

At times there were scenes of sombre tribute to the 17 people killed when Islamic extremists inflicted the country's deadliest terror attack since 1961, but there was also an atmosphere of rousing patriotism and solidarity.

Similar gatherings were held in a string of cities around the world, including Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, Beirut, Ramallah, New York, Tokyo, Sydney and Jerusalem.

In London crowds filled Trafalgar Square which was illuminated with the French flag, while similar gestures of support took place at Tower Bridge and County Hall. The Union Flag at Downing Street was also lowered to half mast.

Earlier, a video emerged showing terrorist Amedy Coulibaly defending the atrocities as "completely legitimate" and swearing allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

His 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.

Coulibaly gunned down a police officer before killing four people in a Jewish supermarket after co-conspirators Said and Cherif Kouachi massacred 12 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.

They were finally cornered and died in the police assaults on Friday.

Today the vast crowds set off along two routes towards Place de la Nation, walking boldly through streets that have been filled with fear since the Kouachi brothers attacked the nearby offices of Charlie Hebdo.

An unprecedented security operation saw more than 5,000 police and soldiers deployed to the streets as France remained on high alert.

Dozens of world leaders paused for a minute's silence before linking arms to start the rally.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Mr Hollande and other heads of state broke into spontaneous applause amid cheers, chants of "Charlie, Charlie" and gentle choruses of the French national anthem La Marseillaise as the march got under way at Place de la Republique.

With them were German chancellor Angela Merkel, the Spanish and Italian leaders, the presidents of Niger, Mali and Gabon, and in a poignant gesture of solidarity, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

The families of the victims were also among the vast crowds that set off through the streets of Paris, including the partner of Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier.

As the people gathered, waves of applause rippled out through the gridlocked roads around Place de la Republique.

In the centre of the square a huge statue was draped with flags from across the world, where marchers led their compatriots in chanting.

Demonstrators held countless banners and placards proclaiming the strength of their feelings, with the slogan "Je Suis Charlie" adorning everything from posters to T-Shirts, with the slogan daubed on many a face.

Some held messages of solidarity in Arabic, while others lifted pens and pencils above their heads to show that materials are more powerful than the guns of terrorists.

Among those pleading for change was Agnes Demongeot, who had made a placard featuring what she hoped would be three values cherished by a new generation alongside the republican trio of freedom, equality and brotherhood - tolerance, intelligence and impertinence.

She reflected the views of many on the march in explaining that while Charlie Hebdo played a key part in her own political education, she was proud that so many of those around her were not fans of the magazine, but passionate nonetheless about the need to defend freedom of speech.

Drawings and pictures in honour of the slain cartoonists, and a giant pencil bearing the words "not afraid" was carried through the crowd. Others raised posters to create a giant image apparently depicting the eyes and glasses of the magazine's murdered editor, Stephanie Charbonnier.

A child's placard conveyed a simple message that encapsulated the tone of defiance. It read: "When I grow up, I'll be a journalist. I'm not afraid."

As the march passed along Boulevard Voltaire, a lone police officer stood among the chimney pots on the roof of a building next to the road raised a salute to the crowd.

They in turn raised their own acknowledgement, shouting their gratitude and calling out "merci, monsieur policier" - "thank you, Mr Policeman" - in recognition of the risks he and his colleagues have taken in recent days.

Speaking after the rally, Mr Cameron told Channel 4 News: "It was very moving. The size of the crowd was absolutely unbelievable but also the signs. I think the one I will remember the most is the one that says Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Flic - I am police officer - et Je Suis Juif - I am a Jew.

"It is very meaningful to see people of all ages saying 'I want to be and I am absolutely showing solidarity with those people who have suffered. When I grow up, I'll be a journalist. I'm not afraid'."

The French Interior Ministry estimated that a total of 3.7 million marched throughout France, with between 1.2 million and 1.6 million in Paris.

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