Police siege of Tolouse shooting suspect ends with his death; Sarkozy calls for national unity
After police raid his apartment, suspect jumps out a window and falls to his death, ending the 32-hour episode.
TOULOUSE - A 32-hour seige by French police outside the home of the suspected perpetrator of the Toulouse school shootings earlier this week ended on Thursday when police raided the apartment, prompting the 24-year-old suspect to jump out a window and fall to his death.
In a statement made after the siege ended, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Muslim citizens of France are not reponsible for the "crazy" actions of the perpetrator of the Toulouse shootings, and that all people who consult hate or terrorism websites will be punished by the authorities.
He went on to declare "reassembly and unity" a top national priority.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant confirmed the death at approximatley 12:00 P.M. local time, after a number of reports surfaced in the French media that the suspect, Mohamed Merah, had died.
Gueant told reporters outside the scene of the siege that police had raided the house after stun grenades were thrown into apartment at 10.30 A.M. local time, and heard no response.
Police then entered the apartment, and introduced video cameras to inspect each room in the apartment, he told reporters.
Gueant went on to say that police could not detect any sign of Merah, but when a camera was introduced into the bathroom of the apartment, Merah came out with a submachine gun, and an exchange of fire ensued between police and the suspect. Merah then jumped out of the window shooting a gun, and was found dead on the ground.
In a drama gripping France five weeks before a presidential election, some 300 police have laid siege since Wednesday to the five-storey house in a suburb of the prosperous industrial town in a bid to capture the shooter. suspected of killing seven people in the name of al-Qaida.
The French citizen of Algerian origin told negotiators he had killed three soldiers last week and four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and because of French army involvement in Afghanistan.
France's elite RAID commando unit detonated three explosions just before midnight on Wednesday, flattening the main door of the building and blowing a hole in the wall, after it became clear Merah did not mean to keep a promise to turn himself in.
Another explosion and several gunshots were heard in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The huge operation, involving hundreds of investigators and police started only on Monday afternoon, in the aftermath of the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, despite the fact that already four days earlier, after the murder of two French soldiers, it was clear that the perpetrator was repeating himself, and that he was liable to attack again.
For a period of days, security forces continued on the Neo-Nazi route, and dismissed other possible lines of inquiry, even though it seems as if Mohamed Merah was under the radar of the security forces, and that he was known to them as a radical Islamist operative.
Those slain at the Jewish school, all of French-Israeli nationality, were buried in Israel on Wednesday as relatives sobbed inconsolably. The bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and 8-year-old Myriam Monsenego had been flown there earlier in the day.