Toulouse gunman killed after 32-hour siege

Mohamed Merah
Toulouse shootings gunman Mohamed Merah was killed after a 32-hour stand-off with police Photo: France 2

Mohamed Merah, the gunman who killed seven people in three separate attacks in Toulouse, has been shot and killed by police after a 32-hour siege.

Merah shot dead four people at a Jewish school, including three schoolchildren. He also killed three soldiers in two separate attacks.

French prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed that the 23-year old French national of Algerian origin, had been shot in the head by a police marksman during a final showdown when police stormed his apartment.

Molins said "everything was done to try to arrest him alive" but the gunman began shooting wildly and aggressively at police.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant described the last moments of the stand-off:

"At the moment the video probe was sent into the bathroom, the killer came out of the bathroom, firing with extreme violence. The volleys of shots were frequent and very tough. One of the anti-terror police who is used to these kinds of situations told us he had never seen such a violent assault.

The anti-terror police tried to protect themselves and returned fire. And at the end, Mohammed Merah jumped from the window with a weapon, continuing to fire and he was found dead on the ground."

France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant speaks to the media after the assault to capture gunman Mohamed Merah
France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant speaks to the media after the assault to capture Mohamed Merah
Masked French special unit policemen leave the scene after the assault to capture Mohamed Merah
Masked French special unit policemen leave the scene after the assault to capture Mohamed Merah Credit: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

In a televised address, President Nicolas Sarkozy said the perpetrator of the Montauban and Toulouse killings has been identified and is now no longer able to cause harm.

He also announced a crackdown on people following extremist websites:

From now on, any person who habitually consults websites that advocate terrorism or that call for hate and violence will be punished. France will not tolerate ideological indoctrination on its soil.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes a statement after Mohammed Merah killed during a stand-off with police
French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a statement after Mohamed Merah was killed during a stand-off with police Credit: Reuters

The attacks

The dramatic end to France's huge manhunt is in contrast to the shock of the first killings, when a gunman on a scooter seemed able to evade police and perform a series of killings across the region.

First was 30-year-old paratrooper Sgt Ibn Ziaten who was shot in a residential neighbourhood in Toulouse on Sunday 11th March.

Four days later on 15th March, Cpl Abel Chennouf, 25, and Pte Mohamed Legouad, 26, were shot outside their barracks in Montauban. A third soldier was seriously injured. French authorities launched a man-hunt to find the killer.

Outside Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on 19th March, 30-year-old teacher Jonathan Sandler and his sons Gabriel and Arieh, aged four and five were shot dead. Miriam Monsonego, the eight-year-old daughter of the school's principal was also killed.

Jonathan Sandler pictured with his sons Gabriel and Arieh and his wife Eva and baby daughter
Jonathan Sandler pictured with his sons Gabriel and Arieh and his wife Eva and baby daughter Credit: Flash90
Eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov
Eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of Ozar Hatorah Jewish school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov Credit: Flash90

Hunt leads to Merah's door

It was in the end an email which led authorities to Merah's door, when they traced an email sent to the first victim to a computer owned by Merah's mother.

Police surrounded Merah's apartment at about 3am on Wednesday morning, eventually evacuating neighbours and switching off the gas and water supplies to the building.

His brother was arrested shortly after police arrived on suspicion of helping him plan the attacks.

As the police first tried to enter the apartment Merah opened fire, injuring two police officers. It was the beginning of a long road for both the suspected killer and the police forces outside his window.

French police and emergency services gather on a street during the raid
French police and emergency services gather on a street during the raid Credit: REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles

The Stand-off

During the prolonged stand-off Merah had agreed to several deadlines for his surrender, but had missed them all.

At one point police believed he may have killed himself when a microphone in his apartment picked up no noise for some time.

Merah told negotiators that he was affiliated with Al-Qaeda and was not working alone in his acts of revenge for Palestinian children. He was also angered by France's involvement in Afghanistan and the banning of the Islamic veil.

Shortly before the police arrived on his doorstep, he called the broadcaster France24 to explain his motives.

French national television station France 2 broadcast the first pictures of the gunman.

Who was Mohamed Merah and how did he evade police for so long?

He had been described by locals claiming to be his friends as a quiet man not known for any political or religious fervour. He had spent some time in Afghanistan, which seemed to surprise some who claimed to be close to him.

Merah had been on the security force's watch list for a while and questions about why he was not picked up before he could attack the school were being asked long before the siege ended with his death.

Now questions remain over not only about why he remained at large to continue killing but also how a lone gunman was able to keep the French elite forces at bay for over 30 hours.

And now he has been killed police have lost their key source of information about his claims that he was not working alone.