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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Toulouse murder suspect an Islamist

The suspect in the horrific Toulouse murders is named Mohammed Merah, 24.

From CNN:
About 300 police officers surrounded a house in the south of France on Wednesday, trying to coax a man whom authorities called a self-styled al Qaeda jihadist to surrender after a series of shootings that left seven people dead.

Soon after special operations police mounted their raid in Toulouse at 3:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday), shots rang out from inside, wounding two officers, police said.
But as the standoff stretched to its sixth hour, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the suspect would surrender at noon (7 a.m. ET).


"The suspect told me -- and I hope he told me the truth -- that he will surrender at 12 p.m.," Gueant said.

The 24-year-old suspect is accused of killing seven people in the last 10 days: a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school on Monday, and three soldiers of north African origin who had recently returned from Afghanistan in two earlier incidents.

Interior Minister Gueant said the suspect is a French national of Algerian origin who spent considerable time in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"He claims to be a jihadist and says he belongs to al Qaeda. He wanted to avenge the Palestinian children and take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions," he told reporters at the scene.

The minister did not say how he knew this.

The suspect reportedly belongs to a little-known group called Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Glory, which the French government banned in January for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan.

Police tracked the suspect down via his brother's IP address, which was apparently used to respond to an ad posted by the first victim, Gueant said.

Imad Ibn Ziaten, a paratrooper of North African origin, arranged to meet a man in Toulouse to sell him a scooter which he had advertised online, the minister said. The victim said in the ad that he was in the military.

A message sent from the suspect's brother's IP address was used to set up an appointment to inspect the bike, an appointment at which the paratrooper was killed on March 11, Gueant said.

Four days later, two other soldiers were shot dead and another injured by a black-clad man wearing a motorcycle helmet in the southwestern French city of Montauban, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Toulouse.

In the attack at the private Jewish school Ozar Hartorah on Monday, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet and driving a motor scooter pulled up and shot a teacher and three children -- two of them his own young sons -- in the head.

The other victim, the daughter of the school's director, was killed in front of her father.

Police said the same guns were used in all three attacks.

Police launched an intense manhunt, and on Wednesday night, zeroed in on the house, located about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the Jewish school.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the four victims arrived in Israel where they will be buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.

"Today, all Israel is in pain and mourning over the deaths of innocent children and a dedicated father," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the families as the coffins were lowered from the plane.

The teacher, Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, was born and raised in Bordeaux, in southwestern France, but pursued his religious studies in Israel. He married and had children, before returning to teach at the Toulouse school, the consistory said.

His sons, Gabriel, 4, and Arieh, 5, will be buried with him.

The other victim, 7-year-old Miriam Monsonego, will be laid to rest at another cemetery.
The funeral is underway now.

The Telegraph is liveblogging the standoff.