France Shooting Suspect Killed in Police Siege

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 4:25 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

French prosecutors say the man suspected of killing seven people, including children at a Jewish school in southern France is dead after a Thursday morning raid on his apartment.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said special police units were instructed to do all they can to capture the suspect, Mohamed Merah alive. But when they entered his apartment in the city of Toulouse after a 32-hour standoff he came out of the bathroom shooting and then jumped from the balcony. Molins said Merah was shot in the head.

Two police officers were reported injured during the raid.

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

Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, is accused of going on a shooting spree March 11 that first targeted three French paratroopers and later a rabbi and three children at the Jewish school in Toulouse. The attacks were carried out from a motorbike and authorities have say the same weapon was used in all of the attacks.

Officials say Merah espoused a radical form of Islam and had been to Afghanistan and the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, where he claimed to have received training from al-Qaida. He also had a long record of petty crimes in France for which he served time in prison.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said Merah was on the list of known or suspected terrorists who are prohibited from flying to the U.S. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, said Merah had been on the no-fly list since 2010.

Merah told negotiators during the standoff that he had killed to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army's involvement in Afghanistan.

After initially agreeing to surrender, Merah later changed his mind.

French politicians Thursday expressed relief that the ordeal has ended and praised special police on the successful operation. The Jewish school where the rabbi and three children were killed remained under police protection.