Suspect's killing ends French siege

Mohammed Merah, the gunman who allegedly killed seven, shot dead after 32-hour standoff with police in Toulouse.

    A man suspected of killing seven people, including four outside a Jewish school in France, has been shot dead after a raid by armed police on an apartment in the city of Toulouse.

    Heavy gunfire lasting several minutes could be heard on Thursday as police entered the apartment of the suspect, identified as Mohammed Merah, Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reported from Toulouse.

    Merah's death ended a siege that had lasted for 32 hours.

    Claude Gueant, France's interior minister, said the suspect had emerged from the bathroom of the apartment and started firing at police as they used a video camera to check each room of the upper-floor apartment. He then jumped out of a window.

    "Henceforth, any person who habitually consults internet sites which praise terrorism and which call for hatred and violence will be punished under criminal law."

    - Nicolas Sarkozy, French President

    "The forces used video to inspect rooms inside the apartment, and there was no sign of the man, who stayed in his bathroom. When they started to inspect it he came out of the bathroom shooting with ferocity that those at the scene had not seen before," Gueant said.

    "In the end, Mohammed Merah jumped from the window with his gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground," he added.

    Francois Molins, a French prosecutor, said Merah was killed after being shot in the head by sniper.

    Molins said: "Weapons and ammunitions were recovered from scene of the siege and also materials for making Molotov cocktails."

    "Everything was done to keep him alive, but he resisted and fired at police as he tried to escape through the window," he said.

    The investigation will focus on whether Merah had any accomplices, he said.

    Previous record

    Merah was suspected of killing three French soldiers in two separate attacks last week, and of killing three children and a rabbi outside a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday.

    Police had said they wanted to capture him alive so that he could stand trial.

    Our correspondent said the police wanted to question him on whether he had any other associates.

    But the police plan came to nought as the heavily armed suspect barricaded himself inside the house and went back on his pledge to give himself up. 

    Al Jazeera's Rowland said: "Apparently, the name of Mohammed Merah crossed the desk of investigating officers after the first two shootings in which the paratroopers were killed."

    "Why, some people are asking, was he not apprehended at that stage instead of being left, after which he carried out the school shootings."

    Speaking after the siege ended, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, expressed his condolences for the families of the seven victims killed by the suspect and pledged to crack down on ideologies that involve extremist indoctrination.

    "Henceforth, any person who habitually consults internet sites which praise terrorism and which call for hatred and violence will be punished under criminal law," he said in a televised address.

    Any person who travels abroad for "indoctrination into ideologies which lead to terrorism" will be prosecuted, Sarkozy said.

    He called on the French people to stand together, and said Muslim communities should not fear any backlash.

    "Our Muslim brothers have nothing to hear from mad terrorists. There must be no association between these things."

    The French president said that he had asked his justice minister to investigate the propagation of extremist ideologies in French prisons.

    'Danger to French Republic'

    Al Jazeera’s Nick Spicer, reporting from Paris, said: "There has been shock and there is relief now in France. Although many people would have wanted him to go on trial."

      Profile: Mohammed Merah
      In Pictures: French standoff

    He said that the far-right presidential candidate, Marie Le Pen, saw the recent killings as proof of  "Islamic fundamentalism and a danger to French Republic".

    The siege in Toulouse followed a massive manhunt, launched by the French police in the immediate aftermath of the shootout outside the school.

    Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old Frenchman, his two sons, five-year-old Arieh and four-year-old Gabriel, as well as seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego were shot dead at close range by the gunman, who later fled on a scooter.

    The four victims were buried at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem after their bodies were flown back to Israel.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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