Report: Suspect in French Jewish school shooting visited Israel
Little-known group claims responsibility for Toulouse attack, claims it came in retaliation for 'Israel's crimes against Palestinians.'
TOULOUSE - Hours after the death of Mohamed Merah, the man suspected of the shootings in Toulouse and Montauban, new details emerged which seemed to contradict previous reports regarding his identity.
According to a report published in Le Monde on Thursday, Merah was not a member of any well-known Islamic terrorist organization, but did undergo a process of radicalization. Merah also reportedly had entry stamps to Israel and other countries in the region in his passport.
Merah was also added to a "no fly" list maintained by U.S. authorities some time ago, two American officials told Reuters. The officials would not disclose precisely when Merah was placed on the list.
Meanwhile, a little-known extremist group on Thursday claimed responsibility for a series of deadly shootings in France, saying they were in response to what it called "Israel's crimes" against the Palestinians.
"The jihadists everywhere are keen to avenge every drop of blood unfairly shed in Palestine, Afghanistan and elsewhere in Muslim countries," said the self-styled group, Soldiers of Caliphate, in a statement posted on a militant website called Supporters of the Mujhadeen.
"We call on the French government to reconsider its policy against the Muslims ... because this policy will only lead to severe punishment and destruction," the statement said. The group called the suspect in the shootings Joseph the French.
Earlier on Thursday, A 32-hour siege by French police outside the home of the suspected perpetrator of the Toulouse school shootings earlier this week ended 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.
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.
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.