Toulouse shootings: Algerian man cornered in flat

Mar 21, 2012

Suspect in Jewish school shootings, who has been linked with al-Qaeda, is in an armed stand-off with police

AFP/Getty Images

THE MANHUNT for the Toulouse killer took a dramatic turn this morning with an armed siege in the city. The stand-off began at 3.40am this morning when a man exchanged gunfire with police who had surrounded a five-storey block at 17 Rue Sergent Vigne in the Cote Pavee district, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The building has been evacuated and three officers were slightly injured in the shootout. The suspect later threw a handgun from the building in return for a mobile phone, but is reported to have an Uzi machine gun, Kalashnikov and other weapons.

He was later named as Mohammed Merah, and police have confirmed that he spent time on the Afghan-Pakistan border and had previously been arrested “on a matter of common law” in Kandahar. But claims that he had been in prison in Afghanistan and was freed in a Taliban prison raid were later denied by the authorities in Kandahar.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant says that Merah is a 23-year-old French national of Algerian origin and that he has links to al-Qaeda. "He wants to take revenge for Palestinian children," Gueant says, and is "angry at the French military for its operations abroad".

Gueant explained in a later briefing: "[Merah] had for several years been tracked by the DCRI [French intelligence] and its agents in Toulouse but there was never anything to suggest that he was preparing a criminal act." Merah had been planning to give himself up in the afternoon, said Gueant, but as the 1.30pm deadline came and went he broke off contact with negotiators. 

Merah's brother was arrested earlier in another part of Toulouse.

The besieged block has been cordoned off by police officers wearing full body armour. Merah's mother has been brought to the scene but has refused to speak to the man, saying she has "little influence" over him. Police were initially alerted to the man by a local scooter dealer, who said he had been asked last week by a customer about customising a vehicle.

According to The Guardian, the French news channel BFM TV said the suspect is linked to an Islamist group that it identified as Forsane Alizza but it was not immediately possible to confirm this.

As the seige continued French President Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to Toulouse, and attended a memorial service in nearby Montauban for the three murdered soldiers. The BBC reports he told Jewish community leaders that the gunmen had been planning more attacks before the police operation this morning.

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 Boy this is gonna be bad PR for Palestinians.

Yes indeed. Even as we write, the Israelis must already be planning some revenge attack on their weak defenceless neighbours. We hope that children would be spared this time round.

Extremists are borderline derranged. There is no argument to be had with them. Muslims overall are good people even though I do not understand how these generally intelligent people do not strongly condem these extremist factions more loudly. As for me, I have no time for western extremists like faccists and the christian religious right wing. How cruel this murderer is in killing anyone who does not meet his ideal. But the perverted disregard for the lives of little children can never be justified by anyone.

This man is NOT Algerian. 

He is born and raised in France, of Algerian parents. Totally different.Do you consider Obama American? or Kenyan since his dad was? Come on folks. This is a horrible journalistic mistake that totally discredits your newspaper.

He's a french man he never visit Algeria ...

Muslims are the first victims of those extremists and they always condem theme, it's just the strong medias ignore them and are more interested by "more excting' people or events.

Just between us, do you really consider this guy muslim? This guy is as muslim as Hitler or Anders Behring Breivik are christians.

This guy is French. He was born and raised there. This man never visited Algeria.

Come on!!!!This guy is french, not algerian!!!!!!!!!

I am very sad to hear such misinformation related by serious journalists. This man and his parents are born in France. Only his grand father was born and left Algeria in 1950. So what is the relation with Algeria. He never visit this country at all. So verify your information before writing on such matter.

WTF Algerian ? He's FRENCH!

He's French, social situation in the French suburbs is a big issue...