TOULOUSE - The prime suspect in the killings of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, southwest France, earlier this week 'wanted revenge for the Palestinian children,' France's Interior Minister Claude Guant said on Wednesday.
French police began a raid on a house in Toulouse at 3 A.M. local time on Wednesday to arrest suspects in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah school. The interior minister told French media that French police believe the prime suspect in the shooting is believed to be in the house.
"He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaida," Gueant told journalists at the scene of the siege.
The man is also suspected in the killing of three French soldiers in separate attacks in Toulouse and the nearby city of Montauban.
"He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions," Gueant said.
He said that police were also talking to the brother of the suspect who, Gueant said, was 24 years old. Police sources told Reuters that a man had been arrested earlier on Wednesday at a separate location in connection with the killings. French media also reported that police were carrying out other raids.
French police raid the house of the suspect in the Toulouse Jewish school shooting, March 21 2012
The suspect's mother had also been brought to the scene of the siege in a northern suburb of Toulouse to help with negotiations, Gueant said. French media reported that she refused to help, saying that she had little influence over her son.
Heavily armed police in bullet-proof vests and helmets cordoned off the residential area where the raid was taking place, in a suburb a few kilometres from the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where Monday's shootings took place.
Reuters witnesses at the scene heard several shots at about 4:40 A.M. local time. Two French police officers were injured in a shoot-out during the raid.
Police have described the suspect as a 24-year-old man from an extremist Islamic organization linked to al-Qaida. French news channel BFM TV identified the Islamist group as Forsane Alizza but it was not immediately possible to confirm this.
The suspect, a French citizen of Algerian descent, is believed to have been trained with al-Qaida on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, according to an Israel Army Radio report.
French police are currently negotiating with the suspect, Army Radio said.
This is a developing story.
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