Police Resume Probe After Deadly France Shooting

Posted March 23rd, 2012 at 2:15 am (UTC-5)
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French police have begun collecting evidence at the apartment building of the suspect in several murders who was killed after a 32-hour standoff in the city of Toulouse.

Police technicians on Friday were spotted loading bags into a van while several people looked on, near a makeshift memorial.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said special police units were instructed to do all they could to capture the suspect, Mohamed Merah alive. But when they entered his apartment early Thursday he came out of the bathroom shooting and then jumped from the balcony. Molins said the suspect was shot in the head.

Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin, was 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.

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.

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.