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March 24, 2012

French Gunman's Brother Charged with Complicity

French prosecutors have filed preliminary charges against the older brother of an Islamist gunman who shot and killed seven people during a shooting rampage in the southwestern city of Toulouse earlier this month.

Abdelkader Merah was charged Sunday with complicity to murder and involvement in terrorism.  

He has denied helping his younger brother Mohamed kill three children and a rabbi, as well as three French soldiers in two earlier incidents.  Police say he told them he is proud of what his brother did.

Abdelkader's lawyer (Anne-Sophie Laguens) said Sunday her client was not aware of his brother's plans.  She also denied reports that Abdelkader was proud of his brother's actions, saying he has strongly condemned the killings.

Abdelkader will remain in custody while a formal investigation is completed. Police already suspect Abdelkader Merah belonged to a network that smuggled Islamist militants into Iraq in 2007.

Also Sunday, thousands of people gathered in Toulouse for a march, calling for unity and tolerance of all religions and cultures.  The silent rally ended at the Jewish school where Mohamed Merah shot dead a rabbi and three children, ages four, five and seven.

Mohamed Merah died Thursday in a gunbattle with police, who kept him holed up in his Toulouse apartment for more than 30 hours.

He claimed he belonged to al-Qaida and wanted to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children in the Mideast and French involvement in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.