French police in standoff with suspect in Toulouse shootings

By on March 20, 2012 in Guest Posts


Toulouse, France (CNN) — Dozens of French police officers surrounded a house near Toulouse early Wednesday morning, trying to coax the suspect in a series of deadly shootings — including one at a Jewish school — to give himself up.

Soon after special operations police mounted their raid at 3:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m. ET Tuesday), shots rang out from inside, wounding two officers, police said.

As the standoff entered its fourth hour, the 24-year-old suspect showed no signs of surrendering. Police tried to get the suspect’s mother to talk to him, but she refused — saying she had very little contact with him, the French interior minister told reporters.

The suspect’s brother was inside the house in the Croix-Daurade district of Toulouse. He was arrested, officials said.

‘High level of anti-Semitism’ in France

According to Interior Minister Claude Gueant, the suspect is a French national of Algerian origin who spent considerable time in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Officials said the man belonged to the jihadist group, Forsane Alizza, or Knights of Glory. The French government banned the group in January for trying to recruit people to fight in Afghanistan.

Officials did not say whether the man was motivated by the presence of French troops in Afghanistan. France has about 4,000 troops supporting the NATO mission there. The government has said it will pull them out by 2013.

Grief on public display in Toulouse

The shooting at the school, Ozar Hatorah, on Monday was the third fatal attack on minorities in southwest France in less than two weeks.

A man wearing a motorcycle helmet and driving a motor scooter pulled up in front of the school and shot a teacher and three children — two of them his own young sons.

The other victim, the daughter of the school’s director, was killed in front of her father.

The shooting followed two other attacks where the same guns were used, police said: the killings of French soldiers of North African and Caribbean origin on March 11 and March 15.

Following the attacks, France put the region on scarlet alert, the highest level in the country, and launched an intense manhunt for the suspect.

Wednesday night, police located the suspect at a house just miles from the Jewish school — leading to the raid.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the four victims arrived in Israel where they will be buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.

The decision to send the bodies to Israel was made because of their faith, according to the Consistory of Paris, a group representing Jewish communities. France has one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.

As practicing Jews, their burial in the birthplace of Judaism ensures that their remains will not be tampered with, the consistory added. Forty percent of French practicing Jews are buried in Israel, it said.

The teacher was born and raised in Bordeaux, in southwestern France, but pursued his religious studies in Israel. He married and had children before returning to teach at the Toulouse school, the consistory said.

CNN’s Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.


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Article source: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/03/21/world/europe/france-shooting/

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