Police Begin Assault on Apartment of Suspect in Toulouse Shooting
In a tense standoff, French riot police demanded the surrender Wednesday of a gunman who reportedly boasted of shooting seven victims in an al-Qaida-linked terror spree aimed at “bringing France to its knees.”
Hundreds of heavily armed police cordoned off streets around an apartment building in the southwestern city of Toulouse after a pre-dawn raid to arrest the suspect, Mohamed Merah, erupted into a firefight. Three police were wounded, the suspected holed up in the apartment and negotiations with the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent dragged on for hours.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said Merah was a self-taught radical Salafi who expressed glee at killing three Jewish children, a rabbi and three French paratroopers. Merah had been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, he said.
Merah was planning to kill another soldier imminently, so police had to launch the 3 a.m. raid, Molins said.
In the negotiations, Merah “expresses no regret, only that he didn’t have time to have more victims. And he even bragged, he said, of bringing France to its knees,” the prosecutor said.
Late Wednesday, Interior Minister Claude Gueant told France-2 TV that Merah planned to turn himself in at night “to be more discreet.” Nearby street lights were turned off.
The gunman’s brother and mother were detained early in the day. Molins said the brother, Abdelkader, had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq.