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France Investigates Possible Links in Deadly Shootings

Adults comfort a boy as they walk away from the
Adults comfort a boy as they walk away from the "Ozar Hatorah" Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France, March 19, 2012
Lisa Bryant

French prosecutors are opening an anti-terrorism investigation into a string of shootings in southern France that killed several Jewish school children and French Muslim soldiers, among others.

France will hold a minute of silence on Tuesday to mark the latest victims in a series of deadly shootings in southern France. Three children and a teacher were shot dead early Monday, after a motorcycle gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Toulouse Prosecutor Michel Valet told reporters that a man on a scooter or motorbike began shooting at everyone in front of him. He chased children inside the school. Besides the four people killed, the man also severely wounded a 17-year-old boy, who is in the hospital.

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The killings have left France in shock. Coming just days after two similar shootings of French soldiers in the same region, the attacks raise questions about possible religious or ethnic motives - and feed into ongoing concerns about anti-Semitism in France.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who rushed to Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, said it is still unclear whether the school and the troop shootings are linked.

But Sarkozy said officials were struck by the similarity of the incidents. Last week's shootings, also in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban, killed a black soldier and two Muslims. In all three cases, the killer was reportedly on a motorbike.

Investigators also say the same weapon was used in the soldier attacks. They are checking whether that weapon was used in Monday's shootings as well.

The government is now beefing up security at all schools and religious buildings in France. For the estimated 700,000 French Jews, this is nothing new. Security was reinforced a decade ago, following a string of anti-Semitic attacks.

In a radio interview, Marc Pullman, regional secretary-general for the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, or CRIF, said that when anti-Semitism is trivialized, people should not be surprised when such attacks happen.

Coming just a month before presidential elections in France, the shootings have fed into the campaign, prompting calls for tougher security. Socialist Party frontrunner Francois Hollande also rushed to Toulouse, saying he wanted to be "in solidarity" with the victims' families. Other candidates, including far-right politician Marine Le Pen, condemned the attack - as did Israeli and European diplomats.

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by: Imma
March 19, 2012 11:08 PM
Was there ever a bombing of civilians, that is, women, children and other defenceles people and it was not done by Muslim extremists, silently cheered or defended by the Muslim moderates? The worst is that when one considers ALL Muslim states, one can only see the nightmares
that will be ours if and when the enthronement of Islam over the world takes place.

by: Gab to Jhubers
March 19, 2012 11:18 AM
Where you make your mistake is in equating a race (whites) to an ideology of Islam extreme. And while it may very well be a white, so called Christian) that did that unforgivable act, the day to day occurrence around the world of these types of events by Muslim extremists make the likelihood or probability that it was just one more of the same.

by: Critic
March 19, 2012 10:50 AM
the aggressive policy of extremist Jews and Sarkozy has created million Hitler because people whether in East or West can not afford more exploitation and deception. this bloody attack could repeat itself everywhere because Netanyahu and his fellows have been the reasons behind those attacks due to their bias aggressive failed policy .You should expect more after the farce during the election .

by: Ben
March 19, 2012 10:42 AM
VOA hurries to search the links-Muslim victims.Jews in Europe often suffer from Muslim extremist attacks.Please,dont mix the Jewish children with the Muslim Soldiers.You acts indecently!

by: Larry at Hafganah v'Hodaya
March 19, 2012 10:36 AM
You can't help think that these horrific acts will continue if we don't stop beefing up security AFTER these incidents. Why can't we beef up security and watchfulness on an ongoing basis?
Why do we always think this won't happen here or to us?

by: edward
March 19, 2012 10:32 AM
You know what the worst thing is?
Maximum sentence in France is 30years, no life imprisonment...
The guy who done this, should at least die!

by: jhubers
March 19, 2012 10:09 AM
Gab: actually given the link to earlier murders of Muslim policemen, I would say it is more probable that another kind of terrorist - the kind that killed 60 school children in Norway - is behind this; the greatest scourge in Europe today - white Christians. This, of course, is a horrible generalization, but then, so is your attempt to link it to Islam. Is it not possible to simply say this was a vicious killer - a criminal - and forget trying to link it to religion?

by: jesus
March 19, 2012 10:03 AM
VOA your are disrespecting TIME for his voice is as valid as any gods.

by: jesus
March 19, 2012 10:01 AM
Religious neanderthals are responsible for most of the violence in the world and my god TIME is fed up and will destroy all gods with no mercy by educating all persons regardless of race, nationality or color of eyes.

by: Jesus
March 19, 2012 9:27 AM
All religious neanderthals should stop the violence for my god TIME will destroy your gods he is all powerful and wise .
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