Toulouse Suspect May Have Al Qaeda Links

Reports Identify Man as Mohammed Merah

By JTA

Published March 21, 2012.
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Thousands attended the funeral in Jerusalem of the four victims of the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, as French police surrounded the home of their prime suspect.

French police early Wednesday morning raided the Toulouse home of a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent. The man reportedly has links to Al-Qaida and has been known to French intelligence for many years.

The man, identified by the French news agency AFP as Mohammed Merah, reportedly had agreed to turn himself in to police later on Wednesday, before abruptly cutting off communication with police. The suspect’s brother, and possibly other siblings, reportedly has already been arrested, and two police officers were injured in a shoot out outside of the home, according to reports.

On Tuesday, three former French soldiers accused of having neo-Nazi ties who had previously been suspected of possible involvement in the shooting attack were questioned and released by French police.

A man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday outside the Ozar Hatorah Schoolin Toulouse, where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day, before fleeing. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack.

Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks last week targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. The shootings, which also were committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.

The school reopened Wednesday for the first time since the attack.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé attended Wednesday morning’s funeral in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery. “Your grief, your pain is ours too. All of France is in shock,” he said.


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