French gunman buried in Toulouse despite row

Mohammed Merah laid to rest in Muslim section of cemetery in Cornebarrieu neighbourhood despite protest by city’s mayor.

France gunman
Merah's family had initially said they wanted their son buried in Algeria [EPA]

French gunman Mohammed Merah, who killed seven people in France before police besieging his home shot him dead, has been buried in Toulouse, despite the mayor saying a burial in his hometown was “inappropriate”.

Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was buried in the Muslim section of a cemetery in the neighbourhood of Cornebarrieu, on the outskirts of Toulouse, sources said.

A Reuters witness said his body was buried around 7pm (1700 GMT) amid a large police presence.

Television images showed Merah’s hearse arriving at the cemetery where about 20 men attended the ceremony, hiding their faces from reporters gathered outside.

“It’s all over. We aren’t talking about it anymore. He is in his grave,” Abdallah Zekri of the French Muslim Council, or CFCM, said afterwards.

Those attending the ceremony were mostly young friends of Merah’s from the housing projects where he grew up, Zekri said.

Zekri led protracted negotiations in recent days with Merah’s family, Algerian authorities and Toulouse authorities over where to bury him.

Quick burial

Merah’s burial came after French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier on Thursday called for the gunman to be buried quickly in France without argument, after both his hometown and ancestral homeland reportedly refused his remains.

“This decision could disturb public order and goes against the efforts I’ve made to unite Toulouse’s citizens since the
start of these odious crimes that have plunged our city into mourning”

– Toulouse mayor Pierre Cohen

“He was French. Let him be buried and let’s not have any arguments about it,” Sarkozy told BFMTV news channel, the AFP news agency reported.

This was despite Toulouse mayor Pierre Cohen’s earlier request that the burial be postponed so that the French government could consider moving its location elsewhere.

Cohen said it was inappropriate to inter Merah in the southwestern city where the killings occurred.

“It seemed better to us to find another burial location,” Cohen told reporters in Toulouse.

“The minister I contacted reminded me of the law and as a result I have given permission for him to be buried tonight.

“This decision could disturb public order and goes against the efforts I’ve made to unite Toulouse’s citizens since the
start of these odious crimes that have plunged our city into mourning.”


Family members had earlier said that Merah’s body was to be flown to Algeria on Thursday for burial. But Algerian authorities were against the move.

“The family has asked me to organise a funeral in France within 24 hours, in agreement with the authorities, because Algeria refused to accept Mohammed Merah’s body for security reasons,” Zekri said earlier on Thursday.

An Algerian government source told the Reuters news agency on Thursday: “Algeria has nothing to do with this case, and we do not understand why some circles in France are trying to involve us in it … This is why we took the decision to not admit the body for now in Algeria.”

Earlier, Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said: “It really seems that no one wants the body of Mohammed Merah.

“Certainly, members of the Jewish community in Toulouse say that it would be really inappropriate for a potential shrine to the gunman to be so close to the place where he carried out those shootings.”

Nicole Yardeni, the regional head of Jewish umbrella group CRIF, said she hoped the authorities would do everything to ensure Merah’s resting place did not become a pilgrimage site.

Cohen said he feared Merah would become a martyr.

Merah, who said he was inspired by al-Qaeda, confessed during the police standoff to having shot dead three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children at point-blank range in a spate of attacks that shook France a month from a presidential election.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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