2012 Indy Info
A police siege in the French city of Toulouse has ended with a man suspected of killing seven people now dead, the French interior minister has said.
Police stormed the flat where Mohammed Merah was holed up at 09:30 GMT, after a siege that had lasted 32 hours.
Merah fired at officers and was found dead after jumping from a window.
The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant was suspected of killing four people outside a Jewish school and three soldiers in three separate attacks.
Merah, 23, said he was acting to “avenge Palestinian children” and protest against French military interventions overseas.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said officers had thrown grenades and entered by the door and windows of the flat.
After surveying the scene and finding no sign of the suspect, they proceeded to the bathroom, moving slowly as they were wary of booby-traps.
When officers tried to find out if there was anyone in the bathroom, the suspect came out firing several weapons.
Mr Gueant said the suspect was “shooting very violently. The bursts of gunfire were frequent and hard”.
Claude Gueant: “Merah jumped through a window while shooting”
Merah then jumped from a window, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground.
One police source told Agence France-Presse that Merah had been killed by police as he fled.
Two officers were reported wounded in the final assault.
Mr Gueant said: “A RAID [special police] officer who is used to this kind of thing told me that he had never seen such a violent assault.”
Earlier Mr Gueant had said it was unclear whether Merah was still alive, because there had been no contact overnight.
He had said the object had been to take Merah alive.
A number of explosions had been set off overnight to intimidate Merah, officials said.
They said he was armed with a Kalashnikov high-velocity rifle, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades.
Street lights were switched off in the vicinity of the building on Wednesday evening and surrounding areas evacuated.
Merah claimed to have received al-Qaeda training in Pakistan’s Waziristan area, and also said he had been to Afghanistan.
Mr Gueant defended intelligence services for not preventing the attacks, describing Merah as a “lone wolf”.
“The domestic intelligence agency tracks a lot of people who are involved in Islamist radicalism. Expressing ideas… is not enough to bring someone before justice,” Mr Gueant said.
Christian Etelin, a lawyer who has previously acted for Merah, said his client had violent tendencies.
“There was his religious engagement, an increasing hatred against the values of a democratic society and a desire to impose what he believes is truth,” Mr Etelin said.
He also denied earlier reports that Merah had been jailed for explosives offensives in Afghanistan, saying his client was in jail in France for robbery with violence at the time – from December 2007 to September 2009.
The killings took place in and around Toulouse in three separate incidents earlier this month.
France has seen an unprecedented security clampdown after a lone gunman killed seven people, including three children, in three separate attacks in the south-west of the country.
Police tracked down the main suspect after investigating the movements of a stolen scooter used by the killer to make his escape following shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban.
A Yamaha T-Max scooter that proves key to tracking down Mohammad Merah, the main suspect in the targeted killings, is stolen.
Police say Merah or an associate later contacted a garage to find out how to switch off the stolen bike’s GPS tracker device.
After the second attack, Merah had the black bike resprayed white. Suspicious garage staff contacted the police.
French soldier Imad Ibn-Ziaten is lured to a meeting in Toulouse after advertising his motorbike for sale.
The suspect apparently uses his brother’s email address to arrange a meeting with Sgt Ibn-Ziaten. The paratrooper, who is not in uniform, is shot dead at close range.
Police say the weapons used to kill the soldier were the same as those employed in the subsequent attacks in Montauban and Toulouse.
Four days later, the gunman strikes again using the same weapons and riding the stolen scooter.
The assassin targets paratroopers in the nearby garrison town of Montauban. Abel Chennouf (left) and Mohamed Legouade are killed as they wait by a cash machine. A third soldier is critically injured.
Police say the killer is a meticulous operator. The clip for the gun used in all three attacks has no fingerprints or DNA on it.
Another four days pass before the killer targets a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Arriving on a white scooter, the killer guns down Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons Gabriel (aged four) and Arieh (five), and seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego at close range.
Reports suggest the killer wore a video camera, apparently to record his actions. A crash helmet and visor hid his identity.
An email address used by the suspected killer leads the police to this apartment block in Toulouse.
A raid on the apartment on the first floor is launched in the early hours of the morning. Police officers who knock on the door of an apartment are fired on – but not seriously hurt.
The heavily armed gunman gives up one of his guns in exchange for a mobile phone to speak to police. Residents in the apartment block are evacuated from the area.
The siege ends in dramatic fashion with a gun battle between Merah and special police units who stormed the apartment after a 32-hour standoff.
Merah was hiding in his bathroom when the police entered the apartment. When a video probe was sent into the bathroom he emerged firing several guns at once.
In the end, Merah jumped from a window with a gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground.
On 11 March, a soldier was shot and killed while waiting to see a man about selling his motorcycle.
Days later, two soldiers were shot and killed and a third was wounded while waiting at a cash machine.
Then earlier this week, three children and an adult were shot and killed outside a Jewish school.
The four Jewish victims were buried in an emotional funeral in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, President Nicolas Sarkozy attended a memorial for the three murdered soldiers at a military base in Montauban near Toulouse.
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