France deploys 10,000 soldiers, Charlie Hebdo prints new Mohammed cartoon

12th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

France announced Monday the unprecedented deployment of 10,000 soldiers to boost security, including at Jewish schools, a day after almost four million people marched in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

"We have decided... to mobilise 10,000 men to protect sensitive sites in the whole country from tomorrow (Tuesday) evening," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said after an emergency security meeting.

"This is the first time that our troops have been mobilised to such an extent on our own soil," he added. Another 5,000 security officers were also part of the reinforcements.

In an act of defiance, the satirical newspaper where 12 people, including the top editor and cartoonists, were gunned down by Islamist gunmen January 7, announced it would put a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed on its new frontpage appearing Wednesday.

The choice of Mohammed -- shown carrying a sign with the words "Je suis Charlie" -- rebuffed the assailants who said after the slayings that they were taking revenge for previous publications of cartoons mocking the prophet.

Charlie Hebdo also announced it would print three million copies -- not the usual 60,000 -- when it reappears on newsstands.

The weekly, whose cartoons were seen by many Muslims as deeply insulting, has become a national symbol of free speech since the massacre and a second attack two days later at a Jewish supermarket. A total of 17 people were killed in the twin rampages.

Huge crowds -- including 1.5 million in Paris in the biggest rally in French history -- took to the streets Sunday to denounce the killings.

- Hunt goes on -

As investigators looked into possible intelligence failures that allowed the attacks to happen, a debate gathered pace over whether France's security bodies need greater powers to combat home-grown terrorism and the flow of jihadists back and forth from Syria.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said one of the Islamists responsible for last week's attacks that rocked France -- Amedy Coulibaly who gunned down a policewoman and four Jewish shoppers at a kosher supermarket -- likely received help from others.

"We think there are in fact probably accomplices," Valls told French radio. "The hunt will go on."

But Le Monde newspaper warned against the "temptation" of enacting a French version of the US Patriot Act, rushed in after the September 11 2001 attacks to give security agencies sweeping new surveillance powers over US citizens.

Such was the secrecy around the US law that only the revelations of whistleblowing intelligence agent Edward Snowden 12 years later laid bare the extraordinary scope of government snooping.

Meanwhile, Washington acknowledged it made a diplomatic misstep when it failed to send a high-ranking official to join world leaders attending Sunday's mass march in Paris.

Only the ambassador to Paris was sent, a decision that provoked ire in France. "We should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

- Tragic wannabe hero -

New details emerged of the scene inside the Jewish supermarket where an Islamist gunman, who said he was working in concert with the two Charlie Hebdo killers, briefly took hostages on Friday, before being killed in a police assault.

A woman who survived the siege told Europe 1 radio that she watched as a fellow hostage tried to snatch the weapon wielded by Amedy Coulibaly.

"A young man took the assault rifle and wanted to shoot him," but Coulibaly "was faster and he shot him in the throat. The poor young man just fell," the woman, who gave her name only as Sophie, said.

She said Coulibaly dealt ruthlessly with another hostage.

"Someone wanted to leave -- he shot him in the back," she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene of the hostage drama at the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday.

To cries of "Bibi, Bibi" -- his nickname -- and under extensive security protection, Netanyahu paid tribute to the four Jewish men who died at the store.

They were to be buried in Israel on Tuesday.

- Threats to Muslims, Jews -

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he was putting in place a "powerful and durable" system of protection for France's Jewish community, the largest in Europe.

Muslims are also coming under attack, with community leaders reporting more than 50 incidents recorded since the assault on Charlie Hebdo, including apparent arson at a mosque in Poitiers on Sunday.

In Germany on Monday, about 100,000 people demonstrated in support of the country's strongly held multicultural values and against an anti-Islamic movement that is gathering pace across an increasingly immigration-sceptic Europe.

The rallies included 30,000 in Leipzig and 20,000 in Munich.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to attend a rally backing an "open and tolerante Germany" on Tuesday in Berlin, alongside the foreign minister and other top officials.

"Germany wants peaceful coexistence of Muslims and members of other religions," Merkel said Monday.

- Terror watch list -

As well as Coulibaly, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo murders in what they said was revenge for Prophet Mohammed cartoons, were known to French intelligence for their extremist leanings.

Valls admitted there were "clear failings" after it emerged that the Kouachis had been on a US terror watch list "for years".

He told French radio on Monday he wanted to see an "improved" system of tapping phones.

Valls also said 1,400 people were known to have left to fight in Syria and Iraq, or were planning to do so, up from the 1,200 stated last month. Seventy French citizens have died there.

Said Kouachi, 34, was known to have travelled to Yemen in 2011, where he received weapons training from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. And 32-year-old Cherif was a known jihadist convicted in 2008 for involvement in a network sending fighters from France to Iraq.

Coulibaly was a repeat criminal offender also convicted for extremist activity.

All three were shot dead by police Friday after a three-day reign of terror that culminated in twin hostage dramas.

burs-sms/ccr


© 2015 AFP

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