France's brutal gunman and the Afghan connection

French special intervention police arriving at a raid on a house to arrest suspected gunman Photo: Reuters

The story of the gunman suspected of mass shootings in Toulouse is, like so many news stories, stranger than fiction.

It now appears, from a statement by the Prison Governor of guess where, Kandahar, that the gunman had been arrested for planting bombs and jailed there for three years.

He apparently escaped from the jail in a mass breakout, fleeing with hundreds of Taliban prisoners.

Somehow he made his way back to France where he saw a newspaper ad placed by a French paratrooper and decided to kill him. He went on to murder two more Muslim soldiers, apparently in revenge for France's presence in Afghanistan.

Next he went to a Jewish school where he shot dead a teacher and children. One of them was a seven year old blonde girl who he chased before shooting her in the head at point blank range.

It also appears he rang a French television station offering them footage of the attacks. It had been reported by an eye witness that he had a camera strapped to his chest as he carried out his attacks.

The man, named as Muhammed Merah of Algerian origin, is now holed up in a house surrounded by police. He faces a tough time.

But France's police and security services face tough questions too about a man they say they had been following for years but who slipped their grasp to kill at will and stun a nation in the middle of a Presidential election campaign.

Sadly, fact not fiction.

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