French shootings: Calls for probe into 'failures'
Published: 23rd Mar 2012 00:30:56
France is facing calls for an inquiry into possible intelligence failures after a series of murders by a gunman in the south of the country.
Mohammed Merah - who claimed to have al-Qaeda training - was killed by a police sniper in Toulouse on Thursday.
It has now emerged that he had been under surveillance for months and had been on the US no-fly list.
Merah, 23, carried out three separate attacks, killing four people at a Jewish school and three soldiers.
He had said he was acting to "avenge Palestinian children" and protest against French military interventions overseas.
On Thursday French officials admitted that Merah had been followed by intelligence agencies for years.
They said that as recently as November 2011 he was questioned by France's DCRI domestic intelligence agency to explain his trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mohammed Merah's violent brand of ideology is revealed in the gruesome video he recorded of the three attacks which began on 11 March.
As he shoots one of three soldiers who were murdered, he apparently says: "You kill my brothers, I kill you."
"Brothers" is presumably a reference to the Taliban in Afghanistan, where French troops make up part of the Nato forces in the country.
Like many militants inspired by the radical ideology of al-Qaeda and other groups, Merah seems to have believed he would be rewarded if he was killed.
Commentators in France and abroad have criticised the intelligence services for failing to track Merah closely enough.
In response, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said: "I understand that people can ask questions whether there were intelligence failures. We need clarity on this."
Separately, officials in Washington said Merah had been on the US government's no-fly list, banning him from boarding any aircraft to America.
The unnamed officials added that Merah's name had been on the list for some time.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant defended intelligence agencies' record, saying they track many extremists, and such isolated cases were very difficult to defend against.
"These so-called lone wolves are formidable opponents," he said.
Merah, of Algerian descent, was shot by a police sniper, after he opened fire on police commandos storming his flat after a 32-hour siege on Thursday morning.
The marksman killed Merah as he tried to jump out of the bathroom window, prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.
"The examination of the body shows that he was shot in the head and that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and had a gun covered by a pair of jeans," Mr Molins said
"Material to make petrol bombs were found on his balcony."
Mr Molins said a Colt 45 handgun was found next to his body, and he estimated that Merah had fired 30 bullets as the commandos broke in.
The prosecutor also confirmed that Merah had filmed all three of the attacks that he carried out.
Earlier President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a televised address that everything had been done to try to bring Merah to justice, but it was decided that no more lives could be put at risk.
He also vowed a new crackdown on those who visited "hate or terrorism" web sites or travelled abroad to be indoctrinated in terrorism.
The killings took place in and around Toulouse in three separate incidents earlier this month.
France has seen an unprecedented security clampdown after a lone gunman killed seven people, including three children, in three separate attacks in the south-west of the country.
Police tracked down the main suspect after investigating the movements of a stolen scooter used by the killer to make his escape following shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban.
A Yamaha T-Max scooter that proves key to tracking down Mohammad Merah, the main suspect in the targeted killings, is stolen.
Police say Merah or an associate later contacted a garage to find out how to switch off the stolen bike's GPS tracker device.
After the second attack, Merah had the black bike resprayed white. Suspicious garage staff contacted the police.
French soldier Imad Ibn-Ziaten is lured to a meeting in Toulouse after advertising his motorbike for sale.</strong>
The suspect apparently uses his brother's email address to arrange a meeting with Sgt Ibn-Ziaten. The paratrooper, who is not in uniform, is shot dead at close range.
Police say the weapons used to kill the soldier were the same as those employed in the subsequent attacks in Montauban and Toulouse.
Four days later, the gunman strikes again using the same weapons and riding the stolen scooter.
The assassin targets paratroopers in the nearby garrison town of Montauban. Abel Chennouf (left) and Mohamed Legouade are killed as they wait by a cash machine. A third soldier is critically injured.
Police say the killer is a meticulous operator. The clip for the gun used in all three attacks has no fingerprints or DNA on it.
Another four days pass before the killer targets a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Arriving on a white scooter, the killer guns down Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons Gabriel (aged four) and Arieh (five), and seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego at close range.
Reports suggest the killer wore a video camera, apparently to record his actions. A crash helmet and visor hid his identity.
An email address used by the suspected killer leads the police to this apartment block in Toulouse.
A raid on the apartment on the first floor is launched in the early hours of the morning. Police officers who knock on the door of an apartment are fired on - but not seriously hurt.
The heavily armed gunman gives up one of his guns in exchange for a mobile phone to speak to police. Residents in the apartment block are evacuated from the area.
The siege ends in dramatic fashion with a gun battle between Merah and special police units who stormed the apartment after a 32-hour standoff.
Merah was hiding in his bathroom when the police entered the apartment. When a video probe was sent into the bathroom he emerged firing several guns at once.
In the end, Merah jumped from a window with a gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground.
On 11 March, a soldier was shot and killed while waiting to see a man about selling his motorcycle.
Days later, two soldiers were shot and killed and a third was wounded while waiting at a cash machine.
Then earlier this week, three children and an adult were shot and killed outside a Jewish school.
Mr Molins said the authorities had recovered videos from Merah's apartment showing the attacks.
"These films are extremely explicit, as we were able to verify yesterday, in which evidently we see him during his encounter with a soldier who he shot twice, saying to him: 'You kill my brothers, I kill you'," said Mr Molins.
"Then we also see him killing the soldiers in Montauban in an extremely violent scene, fleeing on his scooter whilst shouting 'Allahu akbar' [God is great]."
Mr Molins said there was also footage of the school massacre, and added that all of Merah's conversations with negotiators during the siege had been recorded and would be used in the forthcoming inquiry.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. French shootings: Calls for probe into 'failures'. [Online] (Updated 23 Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/1418182-French-shootings-Calls-for-probe-into-failures [Accessed 24th May 2013]
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