pkg rivers france shooting standoff ends_00023801
Toulouse suspect died while shooting
02:58 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note:

Story highlights

Mohammed Merah was on the U.S. no-fly list, a U.S. intelligence official says

President Sarkozy says Merah was not a madman, but a monster and a fanatic

Merah is shot in the head during a raid by security forces, ending the long standoff

Police say Merah killed 3 soldiers, a rabbi and 3 Jewish children

Toulouse, France CNN  — 

The French police siege to capture a suspected al Qaeda-trained militant came to a bloody end Thursday morning when commandos shot Mohammed Merah in the head as he fired wildly back at them, authorities said.

Merah emerged from a bathroom in his apartment and fired more than 30 shots at police as they burst in to end a standoff that had lasted more than 31 hours, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

He jumped out a window onto a balcony, still shooting, and was found dead on the ground, officials said.

Two police officers were injured in the raid, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

Merah had only two bullets left in his gun when he was killed, Molins said.

Merah, 23, was wanted in the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three children ages 4, 5, and 7. The shootings began March 11 and ended Monday with the slaying of the rabbi and the children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Authorities said the young man cited a variety of reasons for the killings, including France’s ban on the wearing of Islamic veils, the missions of its troops abroad and the oppression of Palestinians.

Police found video recordings of the attacks, ammunition and ingredients for explosives after he was killed, Molins said.

In the video of the first shooting of a French soldier in Toulouse, Merah told the soldier, “You kill my brothers, I kill you,” Molins told reporters. Another video shows Merah gunning down two more French soldiers in Montauban. He is heard saying “Allahu Akbar,” or God is great, Molins said.

Merah claimed to have posted the videos online, but police do not know when, where or how, Molins added.

Merah was wearing a bulletproof vest when police raided his apartment, the prosecutor said.

He originally said he would surrender to police, Gueant said, but later vowed that he would resist and kill anyone who tried to take him into custody.

Gueant had said earlier police wanted to capture him alive, saying the priority was “to hand him over to the authorities.”

Merah said he wanted to “die with weapons in his hands,” Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said overnight.

After Merah’s death, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said everything had been done to bring him to justice alive.

But, he said, security forces could not be exposed to more danger as they sought to arrest him, since enough lives had already been lost.

Sarkozy’s political rival, Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, congratulated police and said France had always shown that it “knows how to stand up against its worst enemies without losing any of its values.”

Campaigning for the French presidential elections, put on hold after the Toulouse school attack, has now resumed, with Sarkozy holding a rally in Strasbourg Thursday afternoon. The first round of voting is due next month.

Sarkozy told supporters that his thoughts were with the victims and their families.

The shootings were not the crime of a madman but of “a monster and a fanatic,” he said, and his crimes are “inexplicable and inexcusable.”

France is not racist or anti-Semitic, Sarkozy added, and the tragic events of the past few days have shown that the nation is stronger when it is united and lives by its values.

Police had surrounded Merah’s house at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, having tracked him down through computer sleuthing and clues linked to his motorcycle, authorities said.

As police first attempted to seize him early Wednesday morning, Merah shot and wounded two officers, said Molins, the prosecutor.

The prosecutor said Merah had trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan’s Waziristan region, bordering Afghanistan, and also spent time in Afghanistan.

He was sent back to France after Afghan police picked him up at a traffic stop and alerted international forces to his presence, Molins said.

Merah’s activities led to his inclusion on the U.S. no-fly list, a U.S. intelligence official confirmed Thursday. Merah had been on the list for some time, one reason being that he had attended an al Qaeda training camp, the official said.

Christian Etelin, a lawyer who represented Merah in an earlier incident involving a traffic accident, also said Merah went to Afghanistan two years ago.

After the suspect’s death, Etelin said that Merah was psychologically damaged.