Toulouse shootings suspect: who is Mohammed Merah?
Video emerges of alleged gunman driving a BMW around a car park
MOHAMMED MERAH, suspected of carrying out seven killings in southwest France in the past ten days, is known to the French authorities and has a criminal record in France for non-terrorist crimes, it has been claimed.
Merah is said to be from Toulouse, where his mother lives in the city’s Mirail district. Of Algerian extraction, he is described by neighbours as a “quiet man with a beard” who had “never done anything special”. It is thought he is a mechanic by trade and allegedly has 18 violent crimes on his record. In 2010 he apparently applied to join the French Foreign Legion but failed on his first day. Liberation also claimed that he had tried to sign up two years before that in 2008.
The same paper also said it had spoken to Merah's lawyer who said his client had been sentenced to a month in prison at the end of February after driving without a licence and was due before the judge again in April, when his sentence would be arranged.
Merah, who is alleged to have carried out three fatal shootings on a high-powered scooter, also appears to have a penchant for luxury cars. Le Figaro has posted a video on YouTube (below) of a man who is thought to be Merah driving a BMW around a car park.
The BBC reports that Merah became radicalised “years ago” while serving a prison sentence in France. However it is his time in Afghanistan that brought him to the attention of French intelligence agency the DCRI, who have been tracking him ever since.
Reuters yesterday reported that the man was jailed for "planting bombs" in Afghanistan in 2007 and escaped months later in a mass prison break organised by Taliban insurgents. That version of events has since been denied by the governor of Kandahar.
But French prosecutor Francois Molins says Merah has been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the militant stronghold of Waziristan. Sky News reports that the US Army put Merah “on the first plane headed to France” after Afghan police detained him at a checkpoint.
Merah is reported to have told police he is a "mujahideen" and that he killed the three soldiers, one Jewish teacher and three Jewish schoolchildren "to avenge Palestinian children".