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French Shooting Suspect Dies in Firefight With Police

France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrives to speak to the media after the assault to capture gunman Mohamed Merah during a raid on a five-story building to arrest a suspect in the killings of three children and a rabbi on Monday at a Jewish school,
France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrives to speak to the media after the assault to capture gunman Mohamed Merah during a raid on a five-story building to arrest a suspect in the killings of three children and a rabbi on Monday at a Jewish school,
Lisa Bryant

French authorities are investigating whether a suspect in a string of shootings that killed seven people in southwestern France had any accomplices. The suspected killer, Mohammed Merah, died Thursday after a firefight with French police in the city of Toulouse.

The last minutes of the Toulouse drama took place on the national stage - with live accounts of the firefight between French police and suspect Mohammed Merah. Authorities say the gunman, 23, kept shooting as he threw himself from the window of the apartment where he had been holed up for hours. A Paris prosecutor says police shot him in the head and he was found dead on the ground.

Closure

Merah's death brings closure to more than a week of killings in the Toulouse area - first targeting French paratroopers and then Jewish children and a rabbi. French authorities say the suspect acted methodically, at one point chasing an eight-year-old girl into a school courtyard before shooting her dead. Authorities linked the same weapon to all the shootings carried out by a man on a motorcycle.

In an address to the nation shortly after the firefight, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for healing and unity.  

Sarkozy said the French must overcome their indignation and control their anger. He said French Muslims had nothing to do with the crazy motivations of a terrorist, noting the assailant had also shot Muslims.

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Trained by al-Qaida

Barricaded in the Toulouse apartment for hours, Merah told police he received training from al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He killed his victims, he said, to retaliate for France's military involvement in Afghanistan -- and to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.

Sarkozy announced penal measures against those receiving terrorist training overseas or consulting Internet sites espousing hatred and terrorism. He called for new scrutiny of French prisons to prevent them from becoming places of extremist indoctrination.

Members of France's Jewish and Muslim communities are staging a joint march on Sunday in memory of the Toulouse victims.  

Healing process

In a joint interview on France's RTL radio with France's chief rabbi, Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Muslim Council, said it is important for France not to mix Islam with terrorism. He said he is relieved the drama is over.

The killings have cut to the heart of a presidential campaign in which immigration and Islam have been hotly debated. Sarkozy's handling of the events have clearly helped him in the polls. A new survey puts him two points ahead of his main Socialist challenger, just a month before presidential elections.

Recent Attacks in Toulouse and Surrounding Area:

  • Sunday, March 11: Sergeant Imad Ibn Ziaten, a 30-year-old French paratrooper, is shot dead in a residential neighborhood in Toulouse. Police believe the shooter found him through a small ad he placed offering a motorbike for sale. The ad specified that he was a soldier.
  • Thursday, March 15: Corporal Abel Chennouf, 25, and Private Mohamed Legouad, 26, are shot and killed by a man on a motorbike, outside of their barracks in the town of Montauban, a town north of Toulouse. A third soldier, Corporal Loic Liber, is also seriously wounded in the attack.
  • Monday, March 19: Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old teacher, is shot and killed along with his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4, at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse. Seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego, the daughter of the school's principal, is also killed in the attack. All four had French and Israeli citizenship. An unnamed 17-year-old boy is also seriously wounded in the attack.
  • Wednesday, March 21: Two policemen are wounded during an attempt to storm an apartment in Toulouse occupied by the suspect, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah.
  • Thursday, March 22: Suspected killer, Mohammed Merah, dies after a firefight with French police in the city of Toulouse.
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by: Sam
March 25, 2012 5:39 AM
Fundamentalism is when you believe without thinking. Peace and good will can be harnessed from any religion if the believers THINK. If God says "kill", which he does in the Quran and the Bible, the thinking human will respond NO while the Fundamentalist will say "well, God told me to do it". Fundamentalism is everyone's enemy, regardless which religion you're referring to.

by: Gab to Joseph
March 23, 2012 8:41 AM
You say this is bias reporting, but AlJazeera News reported it the same way. AL ARABIYA news reported the same way. Where is the conspiracy coming from?

by: Anna
March 23, 2012 12:07 AM
i love to read Voanews,i belive the peace of world will be come ture in the near future.

by: ali
March 22, 2012 4:15 PM
very bad

by: joseph
March 22, 2012 4:12 PM
The killing of school children and soldiers in France last week is unacceptable. What is also very sad is the manner in which the matter was reported. At every opportunity, the word "Jewish" was used in US and Western press and dead soldiers rarely referred to as "Muslims" or their killing simply relegated to being a non-event. This exercise very clearly demonstratesx the biased reporting in Western press to illicit sympathy for one religious group over others. This too is not acceptable.

by: Boston
March 22, 2012 3:31 PM
France and the people of France need to be proud of their police and military. This coward of a killer hid behind his religion, and shot children in the head. He was a terrorist that is all he was. He was a loser to the rest of the world and died as a coward.

by: hammar
March 22, 2012 3:11 PM
islam is the faith of death......you can conquer by the sword....but you cannot
win the soul...even mohammed will be dragged from his grave and judged by
our "Lord and God, Jesus Christ @Judgement Day."

by: Infidel
March 22, 2012 12:12 PM
"Sarkozy said the French must overcome their indignation and control their anger. He said French Muslims had nothing to do with the crazy motivations of a terrorist, noting the assailant had also shot Muslims." Nope. Nothing. "Because if zey are no eeting ze cheese and soorendereeng ze are no trooly French"

by: MM
March 22, 2012 9:59 AM
Violence breeds violence, what comes around goes around and we sow what we seed. We should condem all violence, wheter it's a sicko religious fanatic or lying politicians sending armies out to attack civilian populations.

by: kamil
March 22, 2012 9:39 AM
it's interesting comparison with Sgt. Bales. was he too traumatized by war? was he too lonely wolf or whatever? there is no point to site his ridiculous reasons for such atrocities.we are not informed by crazy reasoning of Sgt.Bales. with boring hypocritical rhetoric -like muslims really not like that and so on - it creates prejudices against them.
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