French Shooting Suspect Surrounded
by IPT News • Mar 21, 2012 at 11:44 am
French officials have surrounded the home of the main suspect in the recent killing spree in Southwestern France, which left seven people dead, including three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi, and three paratroopers.
Initial reports indicate that the alleged gunman is Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent.
Merah called the FRANCE 24 news station early Wednesday morning and confessed to the killings, which he claimed were in response to France's military intervention in Afghanistan and its enforcement of a ban on women wearing the Islamic veil.
Merah also said he attacked the Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday because "The Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine."
French authorities supposedly had previous knowledge of Merah because of visits he made to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Conflicting reports exist regarding Merah's travel history to the region but the director of Kandahar prison in southern Afghanistan, Gulam Farooq, told BBC that Merah was arrested in 2007 for carrying explosive material but he escaped a year later in a Taliban-led break-out. He also has a criminal record in France for non-terrorist crimes.
A self-proclaimed member of al-Qaida, Merah is also allegedly linked to the French Islamist group Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), according to French news channel BFM TV. This group was banned last month in France. Another French source, Le Point magazine, reported that Merah became radicalized years ago while serving a prison sentence for a violent crime.
Authorities purportedly tracked Merah to his apartment complex in Toulouse through an e-mail account he used to lure the first shooting victim, French paratrooper Imad Ibn-Ziaten, to a meeting. Despite earlier reports that Merah had been arrested, the standoff with the gunman continues, as authorities seek to negotiate his surrender.
Note: This story is still developing. Track it live here.