Toulouse Shooting Suspect Surrounded; Armed Standoff Continues in France

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Toulouse Shooting Suspect Surrounded; Armed Standoff Continues in France

Man claims he is member of Al Qaeda; Says he will surrender later in the day

Common Dreams staff

A police officer stands next to the building in Toulouse, France, Wednesday March 21, 2012. (AP / Remy de la Mauviniere)

The suspect in a string of shootings in France, including recent murders outside a Jewish day school in Toulouse, has been surrounded by police. Three officers have been injured after gunfire was exchanged with the suspect, according to media reports.

The man has thrown his handgun out a window but has other weapons on him, including an AK-47 assault rifle, and has used them in volleys with police surrounding the building in this southwestern city, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

The suspect, named as Mohammed Merah, is 24 years old, a French citizen of Algerian descent and says "he belongs to al Qaeda," Gueant told reporters. He said the suspect "wants to take revenge for Palestinian children" killed in the Middle East, and is angry at the French military for its operations abroad, including in Afghanistan.

The operation is ongoing. Updates to the story will be made available as events dictate.

* * *

The Associated Press reports this morning:

Authorities have been conducting a massive manhunt across a swath of southern France after seven people were killed in three attacks over the past several days, and France's terror alert level was raised to its highest level ever in the region.

A French paratrooper was killed in Toulouse on March 11, two other paratroopers were killed and one injured on Thursday in the nearby town of Montauban, and three children and a rabbi were killed in a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday.

The suspect in the attacks drove a powerful motorcycle, and the same weapon, a Colt 45, was used in all three shootings. Another less powerful weapon also was used in the attack on the Jewish school.

Police arrived overnight Wednesday to raid the house in Toulouse, near the site of the first killing.

"When they arrived ... the wanted individual shot at the door," Gueant said.

One officer was injured in the knee and another officer was lightly injured in ensuing exchanges of fire, Gueant said.

CNN reports:

"The suspect told me -- and I hope he told me the truth -- that he will surrender in the afternoon," Gueant said.

But the suspect later broke off communications with the police, Gueant told reporters.

A police source named the suspect as Mohammed Merah. The source asked not to be named because he is not authorized to give the name to the media.

Gueant said Merah had a car containing more weapons near his apartment.



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