Po­lice kill flee­ing ex­trem­ist

Gun­man was wanted in deaths of 7, in­clud­ing 3 school­child­ren

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY SARAH DILORENZO AND JO­HANNA DECORSE

TOULOUSE, FRANCE | In a dra­matic end to a 32-hour stand­off, a French po­lice as­sault team slipped into an Is­lamic ex­trem­ist’s apart­ment Thurs­day, spark­ing a fire­fight that ended with the man be­ing shot in the head as he jumped out the win­dow, weapon in hand.

The sus­pect, 23-year-old Mo­hamed Merah, was wanted in the deaths of three French para­troop­ers, three Jewish school­child­ren and a rabbi — all killed since March 11 in what Merah re­port­edly told po­lice was an at­tempt to “bring France to its knees.”

Po­lice had been try­ing to cap­ture the sus­pect alive since a predawn raid on his apart­ment Wed­nes­day in the south­west­ern city of Toulouse.

The killings he was ac­cused of — and boasted about to po­lice — have shocked France, have ig­nited fear in mod­er­ate Mus­lims about stok­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and may even af­fect the coun­try’s up­com­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

The seven slay­ings, car­ried out in three mo­tor­cy­cle shoot­ing at­tacks, are be­lieved to be the first killings in­spired by Is­lamic rad­i­cal mo­tives in France since the Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks in the U.S.

Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, speak­ing in Paris, said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was un­der way to de­ter­mine whether Merah, a French cit­i­zen of Al­ge­rian de­scent who claimed links to al Qaeda, had any ac­com­plices.

His mother and a brother were de­tained a day ago by po­lice af­ter the mother’s com­puter be­came a crit­i­cal link in track­ing down Merah. The brother, Ab­delka­der, had been linked to Iraqi Is­lamist net­works.

Pros­e­cu­tor Fran­cois Molins said Merah burst out of his bathroom when po­lice gin­gerly en­tered his apart­ment Thurs­day morn­ing, wildly fir­ing his gun about 30 times be­fore jump­ing out of an apart­ment win­dow.

“[He] launches an as­sault, charg­ing po­lice through the apart­ment and fir­ing at them with a Colt .45, con­tin­u­ing to ad­vance, armed and fir­ing, as he jumps from the bal­cony,” Mr. Molins said.

Merah fired “un­til he was hit by a re­tal­ia­tory shot from the RAID [elite po­lice unit], which felled him with a bul­let to the head,” Mr. Molins said.

The pros­e­cu­tor said po­lice fired in self-de­fense af­ter go­ing in cau­tiously through the front door, us­ing ro­bot cam­eras to see whether there were any booby traps.

Three mem­bers of the spe­cial squad were wounded Thurs­day, bring­ing the to­tal of in­jured French of­fi­cers through­out the stand­off to five.

Merah, ly­ing on the ground be­low his sec­ond-story apart­ment, was wear­ing a flak jacket and black djellaba robe. A Colt .45 — the type of weapon used in the three at­tacks — was at his side along with a sack, Mr. Molins said.

Au­thor­i­ties said Merah es­poused a rad­i­cal form of Is­lam and had been to Afghanistan and the Pak­istani mil­i­tant strong­hold of Waziris­tan, where he claimed to have re­ceived train­ing from al Qaeda. He also had a long record of petty crimes in France for which he served time in prison.

Mo­hamed Merah

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