Gunman responsible for murder spree in France is dead
The French Interior Minister has announced that Mohamed Merah is dead. Merah is the extremist suspected of murdering three soldiers and four Jewish people, three of them children, in the south of France. After a shootout with police, who entered his apartment, Merah jumped out of a window and was found to have received a gunshot wound to the head. During the clash with the suspect, who police say responded with unusual violence, three members of the special RAID police unit were injured, one of them seriously.
Minister Guéant said police entered the suspect's apartment and were searching for him when he ran out of the bathroom shooting. The officers did their best to hide. The suspect then tried to force an escape through the window.
The operation to apprehend Merah lasted more than 30 hours. Police managed to enter the apartment only after several unsuccessful attempts.
Yesterday evening at around 22:45 CET, the suspect refused to give himself up and warned that he would shoot should police attempt to enter his apartment. According to Guéant, new technology was used during the operation, including video cameras to monitor movement in the building.
Police had surrounded the apartment yesterday in the early morning hours. The extremist injured at least two police officers with defensive fire. He later handed a Colt revolver over to police in exchange for a telephone, possibly the weapon used to commit murder against a total of seven people on 11 and 19 March. Long hours of negotiation followed, with no results.
Television station France 24 reported that Merah, a member of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, said he had committed the murders as revenge for the introduction of the ban on wearing Muslim veils in France and the contribution of French units to operations in Afghanistan. Merah spent time at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where armed al-Qaeda insurgents are hiding and underwent training there. Media are reporting that he spent a year and a half in prison in France for his involvement in a wide variety of rackets.
That was probably not his only imprisonment. Reuters initially reported that the director of prisons in the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar has said Merah was imprisoned there in 2008 after being found guilty of producing and planting bombs, but that he managed to escape after several months. Reuters then reported that the Office of the Governor of Kandahar denied that information.
The head of the penitentiary in Kandahar, Ghulam Faruk, said earlier that Mohammed Merah had been arrested by security forces on 19 December 2007. He was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison for producing and planting bombs in Kandahar province, the cradle of the Islamist Taliban movement.
In June 2008, however, Merah and as many as 1 000 of his fellow prisoners fled when Taliban rebels attacked the main prison in southern Afghanistan. There were 400 members of the radical movement among those who fled.
Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, is suspected of having murdered three children and a teacher on Monday in front of a Jewish school in the French town of Toulouse. Three soldiers murdered previously in the nearby town of Montauban and in Toulouse are also believed to have been his victims.