French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Saturday said the terrorist attacks this week put France at war with radical Islam. The statement came as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest the bloody attacks that left more than a dozen dead.
“It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” Valls said in a speech in Évry south of Paris.
“Journalists were killed because they defended freedom. Policemen were killed because they were protecting you. Jews were killed because they were Jewish. The indignation must be absolute and total not for three days only, but permanently.”
Valls' key ministers held an emergency session to discuss security measures, the New York Times reported, as President François Hollande begged countrymen not to see Muslims as the enemy. To demonstrate his call for unity, Hollande invited former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of the UMP party, to the Elysée Palace for the first time since the 2012 presidential election, Radio France Internationale reported.
“There needs to be a firm message about the values of the republic and of secularism. Tomorrow, France and the French can be proud. Everyone must come tomorrow,” Valls said in inviting French citizens to attend a scheduled Sunday rally.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, however, urged her followers to stay away from the rally, calling it "indecent polemic," because her Front National party, which has denounced Muslims in general, was not invited to participate.
France has the largest Muslim population in Europe.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder planned to attend a meeting called by France's interior minister in Paris Sunday that was expected to focus on terrorist threats, violent extremism and foreign fighters.
France 24 reported Sunday's rally will present a huge security challenge for police, with as many as 1 million expected to participate. Saturday's march honoring the 17 killed at Charlie Hebdo and the market attracted 700,000 participants, France 24 said. The scheduled Sunday rally comes amid threats of more attacks by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, cyberattacks on media websites and bomb scares, RFI said.
"What is usually done for a large rally will be doubled, even tripled, given the threat and the personalities present," a police source was quoted as saying. A number of world dignitaries are expected to attend, complicating the security situation further.
RFI said the attacks have been labeled France's 9/11, a reference to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.