French Gunman Killed

March 24, 2012 by staff 

French Gunman Killed, Investigators have found no signs the suspected gunman behind a deadly string of attacks in southern France was under orders from al Qaeda or any militant group, a top French official said Friday — disputing Mohamed Merah’s claim of terrorist ties before he died in a shootout with commandos.

France’s prime minister and other officials have been fending off suggestions that anti-t*rror*sm authorities failed to adequately monitor the 23-year-old Merah, who had been known to them for years before he carried out three deadly shooting attacks this month.

Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent who claimed links to al Qaeda, was killed in a dramatic gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour standoff at his Toulouse apartment. Prosecutors said he filmed himself carrying out the attacks that began March 11, killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three French paratroopers with close-range shots to the head. Another Jewish student and a paratrooper were wounded.

An autopsy of the gunman’s body showed he received two fatal bullet wounds to the left temple and to the abdomen — but that he was hit by some 20 bullets, mainly in the arms and legs, judicial and police officials said.

The head of the elite police unit, Amaury de Hauteclocque — whose mission was to take Merah alive — insisted his men fired only in self-defence.

Investigators looking for possible accomplices honed in on Merah’s 29-year-old brother, Abdelkader, and the brother’s girlfriend, described by one official as espousing an ultraconservative form of Islam. Both were detained early Wednesday, along with Merah’s mother.

The brother and girlfriend were being transferred Saturday to police anti-terrorist headquarters in Paris for further questioning. Abdelkader Merah had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq, but was never charged. Merah’s mother was to be released.

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