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Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead by French police

Published 22/03/2012

Mohammad Merah is suspected of killing three paratroopers, three children and a rabbi (France 2)
Mohammad Merah is suspected of killing three paratroopers, three children and a rabbi (France 2)
Secial intervention police officers discuss tactics outside the home of shooting suspect Mohamed Merah (AP)
Police officers stand next to the building in Toulouse, France, Wednesday March 21, 2012 where a suspect in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school has been spotted. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in the city in southwest France
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, front right, talks to the media after the siege(AP)
A security guard keeps watch as relatives and mourners attend a ceremony at 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school, before the bodies are transported to Israel for burial
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL- MARCH 21: In this handout image provided by the Zaka organization, members of the Zaka Organisation transport the coffins containing the bodies of the victims of the shooting at the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school in Toulouse as they arrive from France at Ben Gurion Airport on March 21, 2012 near Tel Aviv, Israel. The bodies of 30-year-old rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, aged five, and Gabriel, aged four, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego have been repatriated from the Toulouse school in France for funeral ceremonies which will be held today in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem's main cemetery. Police are linking the shootings with two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week when three French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin were gunned down by a man on a motorbike. (Photo by Zaka via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL- MARCH 21: In this handout image provided by the Zaka organization, members of the Zaka Organisation transport the coffins containing the bodies of the victims of the shooting at the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school in Toulouse as they arrive from France at Ben Gurion Airport on March 21, 2012 near Tel Aviv, Israel. The bodies of 30-year-old rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, aged five, and Gabriel, aged four, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego have been repatriated from the Toulouse school in France for funeral ceremonies which will be held today in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem's main cemetery. Police are linking the shootings with two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week when three French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin were gunned down by a man on a motorbike. (Photo by Zaka via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL- MARCH 21: In this handout image provided by the Zaka organization, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Alain Juppe (C) and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (2nd L) join family members and members of the Zaka Organisation as the coffins containing the bodies of the victims of the shooting at the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school arrive from France at Ben Gurion Airport on March 21, 2012 near Tel Aviv, Israel. The bodies of 30-year-old rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, aged five, and Gabriel, aged four, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego have been repatriated from the Toulouse school in France for funeral ceremonies which will be held today in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem's main cemetery. Police are linking the shootings with two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week when three French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin were gunned down by a man on a motorbike. (Photo by Zaka via Getty Images)
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL- MARCH 21: In this handout image provided by the Zaka organization, members of the Zaka Organisation transport the coffins containing the bodies of the victims of the shooting at the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school in Toulouse as they arrive from France at Ben Gurion Airport on March 21, 2012 near Tel Aviv, Israel. The bodies of 30-year-old rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, aged five, and Gabriel, aged four, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego have been repatriated from the Toulouse school in France for funeral ceremonies which will be held today in Givat Shaul, Jerusalem's main cemetery. Police are linking the shootings with two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week when three French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin were gunned down by a man on a motorbike. (Photo by Zaka via Getty Images)
Police officers and firefighters stand next to a building in Toulouse, France, Wednesday, March 21, 2012 where a suspect in the shooting at he Ozar Hatorah Jewish school has been spotted. French police exchanged fire and were negotiating Wednesday with the gunman who claims connections to al-Qaida and is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers
French police secure the area where they exchanged fire and were negotiating with a gunman who claims connections to al-Qaida and is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers, Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in Toulouse, southwestern France. The suspect is 24 years old, of French nationality and was known to authorities for having spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Firefighter ambulances are parked at the entrance of a street in Toulouse Wednesday March 21, 2012 where a suspect in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school has been spotted. French police officers have exchanged gunfire and are negotiating with a man who claims connections to al-Qaida and is suspected of killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers in three attacks
A police officer works at the scene of the stand-off in Toulouse (AP)
Police officers surround the building in Toulouse, where the shooting suspect is holed up (AP)
This image shows three of the victims killed by a gunman in Toulouse, France. (L-C) Arieh, Jonathan and Gabriel Sandler were all killed in the shooting outside a Jewish school in the French city. Four people, including three children, were killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Hadrei Haredim via Getty Images)
Mourners gather around a coffins of a victim as it is loaded in a hearse, following a ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where a gunman opened fire killing four people in Toulouse, southwestern France, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a city in southwest France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center left, and Education Minister Luc Chatel, center right, talk with an unidentified teacher, left, and pupils of the Francois Couperin College in Paris, in the classroom of their school, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, the day after a gunman on a motorbike opened fire at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, southwestern France. Hundreds of police blanketed southern France on Tuesday, searching for a gunman, possibly a racist, anti-Semitic serial killer, who killed four people at a Jewish school and may have filmed his attack
Mourners follow the hearse carrying the coffins of the victims, following a ceremony at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where a gunman opened fire killing four people in Toulouse, southwestern France, Tuesday, March 20, 2012. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a city in southwest France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday
Unidentified pupils of the Anne-Franck college in Lambersart, northern France, and their class teacher Laurie Larvent, hold a minute of silence in their classroom Tuesday, March 20, 2012, the day after a gunman on a motorbike opened fire Monday at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, southwestern France, killing a rabbi and his two young sons as they waited for a bus, then chased down a 7-year-old girl, shooting her dead at point-blank range. It was the latest in a series of attacks on minorities that have raised fears of a racist killer on the loose
Members of the media look at and document markings left on the ground by police forensics at the scene of the fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France
Two men comfort each other as armed police officers stand guard at the entrance of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, where a gunman opened fire killing four people on Monday
The Prime Minister wrote to French president Nicolas Sarkozy to offer his support in the wake of the shooting
Jonathan Sandler was killed in a shooting in Toulouse alongside his two sons and one other child (AP)
Students comfort each other outside the school in Toulouse (AP)
Police officers and firefighters at the site of a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse (AP)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, centre, speaks in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school following the shooting, alongside France's Education Minister Luc Chatel, third from left, France's Jewish central Consistory Joel Mergui, second from right, and Head of Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) Richard Pasquier, left, in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday, March 19, 2012. A motorcycle gunman opened fire Monday in front of a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse, killing a rabbi, his two small sons and one other child, the prosecutor's office said
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: School children are comforted at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Police stand guard at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Rabbi Rav Gabriel speaks to the press to allow families through at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Police stand guard at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Police work at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Police stand guard at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)
TOULOUSE, FRANCE - MARCH 19: Rabbi Rav Gabriel speaks to the press to allow families through at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France. Four people, including three children, have been killed and others injured after a gunman opened fire outside a Jewish school as parents dropped their children off for morning classes. (Photo by Gilles Bouquillon/Getty Images)

Mohamed Merah, the man suspected of killing seven people, was shot dead by police as he leapt from the window of his apartment with gun in hand in a dramatic end to a 32-hour siege.

A masked French SWAT team slipped into the apartment sparking a firefight that ended the stand-off.

Merah, 23, was wanted in the deaths of three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi - all killed since March 11 in what Merah reportedly told police was an attempt to "bring France to its knees".

Police had been trying to capture the suspect alive since a pre-dawn raid on his apartment yesterday in the south-western city of Toulouse.

The killings he was accused of - and boasted about to police - have shocked France, ignited fear in moderate Muslims about stoking discrimination and may even affect the country's upcoming presidential election.

The seven murders, carried out in three motorcycle shooting attacks, are believed to be the first killings inspired by Islamic radical motives in France since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking in Paris, said an investigation was under way to see if Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent who claimed links to al-Qaida, had any accomplices. His mother and a brother were detained a day ago by police after the mother's computer became a critical link in tracking Merah down. The brother Abdelkader had already been linked to Iraqi Islamist networks.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said Merah burst out of his bathroom when police carefully entered his apartment today, wildly firing his gun about 30 times before jumping out an apartment window.

"(He)launches an assault, charging police through the apartment and firing at them with a Colt .45, continuing to advance, armed and firing, as he jumps from the balcony," Molins said.

Merah fired "until he was hit by a retaliatory shot from the RAID (elite police unit), which felled him with a bullet to the head," Molins said.

The prosecutor said police fired in self-defence after going in cautiously through the front door, using robot cameras to see if there were any boobytraps. Three members of the special squad were wounded, bringing the total of injured French officers throughout the stand-off to five.

Merah, lying on the ground below his second-storey apartment, was wearing a flak jacket and black djellabah robe. A Colt 45 - the type of weapon used in the three attacks - was at his side along with a sack.

Authorities said Merah espoused a radical form of Islam and had been to Afghanistan and the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, where he claimed to have received training from al-Qaida. He also had a long record of petty crimes in France for which he served time in prison.

Elite police squads had set off sporadic blasts throughout the night and into the morning - some blew off the apartment's shutters - to pressure Merah to give up. A new set of detonations, known as flash bangs, resounded at 10:30 am local time, signalling an end to the stand-off. Volleys of gunfire were heard an hour later.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said police "went in by the door, taking off the door first. They also came in by the windows".

He said police used special video equipment to search the second-floor apartment but could not find him until the instruments surveyed the bathroom.

"The killer came out" firing "with extreme violence," Gueant told reporters. Police "tried to protect themselves and fired back".

Merah had made "extremely explicit films" of all three deadly attacks, video since viewed by police, and claimed to have posted them online, the prosecutor said.

In the film of the March 11 attack that killed a paratrooper, the prosecutor said the gunman is heard saying: "You kill my brothers - I kill you."

In his film of the second attack, on March 15 that killed two paratroopers and wounded a third in nearby Montauban, Merah cried out "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great" in Arabic, the prosecutor said.

Authorities spoke little about the video of Merah slaying a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. A witness to other video of that rampage, from the school, had described him shooting young children in the head.

Merah told negotiators he killed to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest at the French army's involvement in Afghanistan. He was also upset over a French government ban last year on face-covering Islamic veils.

Molins said Merah told investigators where to find the bag with the videos of the slayings, caught by a camera that had been strapped to his chest and given to someone else to keep.

After the stand-off ended, Sarkozy announced tough new measures to combat terrorism. He said anyone who regularly visits "websites which support terrorism or call for hate or violence will be punished by the law." He also promised a crackdown on anyone who goes abroad "for the purposes of indoctrination in terrorist ideology."

The French president also appealed to citizens not to confuse violence with France's estimated five million Muslims.

"Our Muslim compatriots had nothing to do with the crazy motive of a terrorist," Sarkozy said, noting that Muslim paratroopers were among those killed by the radical.

In Toulouse, the state prosecutor said off-and-on negotiations yesterday with the suspect - all recorded by authorities - broke down again at night. Merah, after initially saying he would surrender, later said he would resist, and that it would be either them or him.

"If it's me, who cares? I'll go to paradise," the prosecutor quoted Merah as saying.

Merah was tracked down by more than 200 special investigators after the Monday attack on a Jewish school in northern Toulouse.

The prosecutor said two major breaks in the case led them to Merah: his mother's computer, which was used by Merah to respond to an online ad by a paratrooper trying to sell his scooter.

The soldier became Merah's first victim. Authorities also found a Yamaha motorcycle shop where Merah suspiciously sought information about how to deactivate a GPS tracker.

Molins said Merah had plans to kill another soldier, which prompted the first police raid at around 3am yesterday. After that erupted into a firefight, wounding two police, the stand-off dragged on and on, with sporadic negotiations.

HOW ATTACKS AND SIEGE UNFOLDED

A wave of killings by an Islamist extremist in southern France sparked the country's biggest manhunt since the 1990s and a two-day siege that ended today after he was shot dead by police. Here is a timeline of what happened:

- March 11: A French paratrooper is killed by a lone gunman on a motorbike in the city of Toulouse. Authorities say the killer had responded to an ad the victim placed offering to sell his motorcycle.

- March 15: Two French paratroopers are killed and one is seriously injured when a gunman on a motorbike shoots them at a bank machine in Montauban, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Toulouse.

- Monday, March 19: An attacker on a motorbike guns down three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France's worst school shooting and the deadliest attack on Jews in France in three decades.

That night, police investigators tap the phones of the mother of Mohamed Merah, who had emerged as the chief suspect in the probe.

- Tuesday, March 20: Schools across France hold a moment of silence to honour the school shooting victims. By afternoon, police trace Merah to an apartment in the Cote Pavee neighbourhood of Toulouse.

10:00 pm: French officials meet, within half an hour police decided to arrest Merah, his mother and his brother.

- Wednesday, March 21:

3:20 am: Police descend on Merah's apartment. Police say he opened fire when officers arrived, shooting one in the knee and a second in his bulletproof vest. Attempts to arrest him are repelled by gunfire and a protracted stand-off ensues.

8:05 am: French minister says Merah has thrown a handgun out of a window but still has other weapons.

12:30 pm: French police resume negotiations with Merah.

1:05 pm: Police union official says Merah has promised to turn himself in in the next hour and a half, otherwise police will force their way in. Merah reneges on his pledge but the assault does not materialise.

Soon before 9 pm: Street lights cut around Merah's building to help police using night-vision goggles.

11:30 pm: Three explosions ring out from the building, accompanied by orange flashes of light - a tactic police say aims to pressure Merah to give up.

- Thursday, March 22:

1:40 am: Two new blasts and brief bursts of gunfire ring out at the apartment. Sporadic blasts are heard throughout the night at one-hour intervals.

7:10 am: French interior minister says Merah wants to die "with weapons in his hands."

11:30 am: Police gingerly enter his apartment through the door and the windows. As they arrive, Merah bursts out of the bathroom, shooting officers with his Colt .45 and diving out of a window. Officials say later he was shot in the head. Prosecutor Francois Molins insists police acted in self-defence.

Press Association

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