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France gunman's brother charged

A Frenchman suspected of helping his brother plot attacks against Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers has been accused of being involved in murder and terrorism.

Investigators looking into France's worst terror attacks in years believe Abdelkader Merah helped his brother Mohamed prepare the killings, and are investigating whether they were linked to an international network of extremists or worked on their own.

But Merah denies any role in the attacks his lawyer said he feels like "a scapegoat".

"No one knew anything" about what Mohamed was plotting, lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens told reporters in Paris. She dismissed reports that Abdelkader had praised his brother's attacks. "He was never proud of those actions."

Mohamed Merah, 23, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour stand-off with police, he died on Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.

Since then, attention has focused on his older brother, who was handed preliminary charges of complicity in murder and theft, and involvement in a terrorist enterprise, prosecutors said. Detained last week, he will remain in custody pending further investigation.

Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to believe a crime was committed, but allow magistrates more time to investigate.

Authorities suspect Abdelkader had a role in acquiring his younger brother's arsenal and financing his trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East. Mohamed Merah claimed allegiance to al Qaida and told police he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for training.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said the inquiry is also looking at anyone else who could have been involved in planning the attacks.

Abdelkader's girlfriend, Yamina Mesbah, was held but has been released without being charged. The Merah brothers' mother was released on Friday night.


From Belfast Telegraph