The Islamist gunman, who killed seven people in south-western France in March before being shot dead by police, was not the "lone wolf" he was made out to be by French intelligence services, Le Monde daily reported Thursday.
Le Monde said intelligence documents made available to investigators showed Mohamed Merah made 186 calls to contacts in 20 countries outside France between September 1, 2010, and February 20, 2011.
Besides Egypt, where his brother was living at the time, and Algeria where his father lives, Merah also called Morocco, Britain, Spain, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Croatia, Romania, Bolivia, Thailand, Russia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Taiwan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Le Monde reported.
The documents gave no details on the identities of his contacts.
The calls cast doubt over the characterization by former intelligence services boss Bernard Squarcini of Merah as a solitary figure, who "radicalized himself" in prison in Toulouse and was not part of a terrorist network.
"Mohamed Merah, not such a lone wolf," read the Le Monde headline.
The 24-year-old former mechanic was killed by police on March 22 after a 32-hour siege of his Toulouse apartment.
He killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three soldiers in three attacks in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban.
During the siege Merah told police negotiators he was mandated by al-Qaida to carry out attacks in France.
French authorities poured scorn on that claim, despite the fact Merah had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now