France Shooting Suspect Dead after Police Storm Apartment

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 8:40 am (UTC-5)
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France's interior minister says the man suspected of killing seven people in the southern city of Toulouse is dead following a raid on his apartment.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant says the suspect, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, jumped from his window in a hail of bullets Thursday morning after police stormed his apartment following a 32-hour standoff.

The minister says two policemen were wounded in a shootout with the suspect.

Gueant says French commandos entered the apartment around 9:30 a.m. local time coming in through the door and windows. He said the suspect came out from the bathroom shooting “very violently” and police, trying to protect themselves, fired back.

Gueant says in the end, Merah jumped out of the window with a gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He says he was found dead on the ground.

In a televised address Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to crack down on extremist indoctrination, saying that anyone who regularly visits websites that support terrorism or call for hate or violence will be punished by law. At the same time, he called for national unity in the wake of the Toulouse shootings.

Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, is accused of murdering a rabbi and three children — ages four, five and seven — at the Jewish school in Toulouse Monday before driving off on a motorcycle. French police say the alleged shooter used the same gun to kill three French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin last week in Toulouse and a nearby town.

Two police officers were wounded in earlier attempts to storm the Toulouse house where the suspect was holed up.

Interior Minister Gueant says the suspect was angry about French military intervention abroad, and said he wanted to avenge Palestinian children killed in the Middle East. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the killings, saying it is time for criminals to stop using the Palestinians to justify their cause.

Police say they received a tip from a Yamaha dealer in Toulouse who said he remembered that a young man had asked to have an antitheft device removed from a motorbike. Authorities say it was the same kind used in the recent murders.

U.S. President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy Wednesday while aboard Air Force One en route to Nevada. A White House statement says Mr. Obama expressed his solidarity with Mr. Sarkozy and the government and people of France. The statement said President Obama underscored that the American people stand shoulder to shoulder with “our French allies and friends in this trying time.”

During a funeral for two of the paratroopers in Montauban, north of Toulouse, President Sarkozy said the slain soldiers were victims of “terrorist executions.”

Far-right political leader Marine Le Pen lashed out against “Islamic fundamentalism” in an interview on Israeli radio Wednesday.

The bodies of the rabbi and three children were buried Wednesday in Israel. The four held dual French-Israeli citizenship.