Al Jazeera not to air French killings video

Network says broadcast of video showing shootings that left seven dead in southern France does not meet code of ethics.

Toulouse building
Residents pass near a boarded balcony of the building where police staged an assault on Merah in Toulouse [Reuters]

Al Jazeera has said it will not air a video that it received showing three shooting attacks in Toulouse and Montauban in southern France this month.

The network on Tuesday said the video did not add any information that was not already in public domain. It also did not meet the television station’s code of ethics for broadcast.

The video shows the attacks in chronological order, with audible gunshots and voices of the killer and the victims. But it does not show the face of the confessed murderer, Mohammed Merah, and it does not contain a statement from him.

Merah appeared to be acting alone in the video, entitled “Al Qaeda attaque la France” – meaning “Al-Qaeda attacks France”.

The 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, who said he was inspired by al-Qaeda, admitted to killing three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi in a spate of shootings that sent shockwaves through France.

Merah boasted of filming his killings and witnesses told police that he appeared to be wearing a video camera in a chest harness.

The Paris prosecutor in charge of the case confirmed last week that the Merah had filmed each of the shootings.

Tracing the source

French police said on Monday they had copies of the videos, shot by Merah during the series of killings, that had been sent on a USB memory stick to Al Jazeera’s office in Paris.

The package, which also contained a letter written in poor French with spelling and grammar errors, was dated March 21 – the day police surrounded Merah in his apartment in Toulouse after a massive manhunt.

Zied Tarrouche, Al Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief, said the images were a bit shaky but of a high technical quality. He also said the video had clearly been manipulated after the fact, with religious songs and recitations of Quranic verses laid over the footage.

“Investigators are trying to find out whether the letter was posted [last] Tuesday night by Mohamed Merah himself or by an accomplice Wednesday morning,” Le Parisien daily newspaper reported.

The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that the package containing the video files was sent from a southern suburb of Toulouse, and a French official close to the investigation has said it was not sent by Merah.

‘Despicable images’

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in mid-campaign for re-election, urged television networks on Tuesday not to broadcast the video. Family members of the victims also asked that the footage not be aired.

“I ask the managers of all television stations that might have these images not to broadcast them in any circumstances, out of respect for the victims – out of respect for the Republic,” Sarkozy said.

Meanwhile, Merah’s father, who was estranged from his son and lives in Algeria, has reportedly said he wants to file a complaint for Mohammed’s death. In his address, Sarkozy expressed outrage at that idea.

“It’s with indignation that I learned that the father of the assassin of seven people – including three soldiers and three children – wanted to file a lawsuit against France for the death of his son,” Sarkozy said.

“Do we need to remind this man that his son filmed his crimes and diabolically made sure to send these despicable images to a television station?”

Sarkozy has said Merah was not part of a terror cell, but four anti-terrorist judges are heading the investigation into whether his brother, Abdelkader, was an accomplice, and whether anyone else might have been involved.

Preliminary charges for complicity in murder and terrorism have been filed against Abdelkader, though no evidence has emerged that he took part directly in the shooting.

Mohammed, who had attended an Islamist training camp in Pakistan, used a stolen scooter and a Colt 45 pistol to carry out his attacks over eight days before being cornered by police and eventually shot dead after a dramatic 30-hour siege.

The gunman’s family has decided to have him buried in Algeria, his parents’ native country, to avoid a grave in France being attacked or becoming a place of pilgrimage, an official of a Paris mosque said.

Source: Al Jazeera