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Murder suspect 'claimed innocence'

A lawyer said she has evidence the young man accused of killing seven people in attacks on French soldiers and a Jewish school claimed his innocence to police.

Separately, France announced it was expelling several foreign Islamist extremists on its soil.

Mohamed Merah, 23, was killed after a more than 30-hour stand-off with police at his apartment in Toulouse after being identified as the suspect behind the killing spree last month.

Authorities have said that during negotiations Merah claimed to have links to al Qaida and confessed to the killings.

However Zahia Mokhtari, a lawyer for Merah's Algerian father, told BFM television that she had two identical videos of Merah that contradict the police narrative. "In these videos, he says, 'I am innocent. Why are you killing me? I didn't do anything,'" she said.

Ms Mokhtari would not detail how she got the videos, saying she would reveal more on their origin once she files a lawsuit in French courts against the elite police force, RAID, that killed Merah.

Merah is alleged to have killed three paratroopers, a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren, attacks that put French authorities on edge.

President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed a crackdown on foreign Islamist radicals, and the French Interior Ministry said that deportations are in progress.

An Algerian Islamist radical convicted for a role in 1994 attacks in Marrakesh and said to have recently started linking up again with extremists was deported along with an imam from Mali who preached anti-Semitism and the rejection of the West, the Interior Ministry said. A Saudi imam who has systematically preached the need to isolate women among other things is to be forced home imminently.

Efforts to deport two other people are in progress and more such actions can be expected "shortly", the statement said.


From Belfast Telegraph