Paris shooting: Security tight for rally, with snipers, 1,500 military officers and 2,200 policemen

PARIS- Security will be tight at a "unity rally" in Paris on Sunday to commemorate victims of recent terror attacks that saw 17 people killed. The rally, which is expected to start at 3pm local time (10pm in Singapore), will be attended by several world leaders.

At a press conference in Paris on Saturday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the government had decided to take "exceptional measures for an exceptional situation to ensure the rally's security ensure public order."

He said that 2,200 policemen and 1,500 military officers would be deployed to protect the hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend the rally, which is being held in defiance of a terrorism spree that took 17 lives in Paris. Snipers will be positioned on rooftops to ensure particiapants' safety, he said.

"This mobilisation would ensure the safety of sensitive places including medias outlets, religious centres and diplomatic missions," news reports quoted him as saying.

Among the world leaders expected to attend are British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and the Jordanian King and Queen are also expected to be present.

Participants will walk about 3km from the historic Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation in the east of the capital. The French authorities have mapped two routes for the march.

According to the French newspaper Liberation, family members of the victims will be at the front of the march. They will be followed by French President Francois Hollande, foreign heads of state and French politicians. A source told AFP that the politicians were expected to remain at the march for only a short time.

Travel on public transport in and around Paris will be free on Sunday to allow participants to get to and from the demonstration, and at least one train operator has cut prices for people coming from other cities.

France's three days of terror started on Jan 7 when the Kouachi brothers Cherif and Said attacked satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's offices and killed 12 people in total. A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, a third gunman, shot dead a policewoman in a southern suburb of Paris.

On Jan 9, all three gunmen were killed by security forces.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg