Gunman kills 4 in Toulouse Shooter on motorcycle attacks Jewish school; terror link mulled
TOULOUSE, FRANCE | A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire Monday in front of a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse, killing a rabbi, his two young sons and a schoolgirl, the prosecutor’s office said.
It was the third deadly motorcycle shooting in the same area in recent days.
Prosecutors were studying possible terrorist links, but the motive for the attack was unclear. The attack shocked the country and prompted strong emotions and high-level discussions in Israel.
Concerns emerged about a possible serial killer with racist motivations, as investigators examined whether the attack was linked to two other shooting attacks in the Toulouse region that killed three French paratroopers and left another seriously injured.
Religious minorities and issues of race have emerged as a prominent issue in France’s current presidential campaign. The paratroopers killed and injured were of North African and French Caribbean origin, and the targets Monday were Jewish.
President Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to the school, denouncing “the savagery” of the attack and vowing to track down the killer or killers.
“We will find him,” he said, and ordered increased security at Jewish and Muslim buildings around Toulouse, while his prime minister told officials to “secure” all school and religious buildings in the entire country.
Mr. Sarkozy’s challengers for the presidential vote in April and May also rushed to the scene.
In each of the three attacks, the same large-caliber bullet — 11.43 — was used, a police official said. He was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be identified.
A 30-year-old rabbi and his 3year-old and 6-year-old sons were killed Monday just before classes started at the Ozar Hatorah school, a junior high and high school in a quiet residential neighborhood, Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet said.
Another child, the 8-year-old daughter of the school principal, also was killed, school officials said. Mr. Valet said a 17-year-old boy also was seriously wounded and in the operating ward of a city hospital.
“He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults,” Mr. Valet said. “The children were chased inside the school.”
The slain rabbi was Johnathan Sandler, who taught Yiddish at the school, according to another teacher, Uriel Torjmane.
Mr. Sandler arrived here from Jerusalem in September with his wife and children, according to Zionist activist Charlotte Elbaz.
France has the largest Jewish community in Western Europe, estimated at about 500,000, as well as its largest Muslim population, about 5 million.
Toulouse, a southwestern city north of the Pyrenees, has about 10,000 to 15,000 Jews in its overall population of 440,000, said JeanPaul Amoyelle, president of the Ozar Hatorah school network in France. He said the Toulouse Jewish community is well integrated.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-henry Brandet told the Associated Press that the suspect made his getaway on a dark-colored scooter — just as the assailant or assailants did in the two shootings last week.
On March 10, a gunman on a motorbike shot and killed a paratrooper in Toulouse. On Thursday, a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three uniformed paratroopers at a bank machine in Montauban, about 30 miles from Toulouse, killing two and critically wounding the other.
Police officers gather at the site of a shooting in Toulouse on Monday. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in the city in southwestern France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday.