BREAKING NEWS: French gunman to give himself up ‘this afternoon’

Three police officers wounded in shoot-out; suspect named Muhammad Merah, aged 24, AFP reports.


TOULOUSE, France – A gunman, suspected of killing three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in the name of al-Qaida, said on Wednesday he would hand himself over to police after an hours-long siege in which he wounded three officers. The suspect was named as Muhammad Merah, aged 24, AFP reported.

About 300 police, some in bullet-proof body armor, cordoned off an area surrounding an apartment in a Toulouse neighborhood in southwestern France, where the 24-year-old Muslim man was holed up. Shots were heard in the early hours of the morning, and police said three officers had been slightly wounded.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the gunman was a French citizen of Algerian origin who had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and had shot dead the four in revenge for French military involvement abroad. He is also suspected by authorities of killing three soldiers of North African origin last week.”He said … he will turn himself in this afternoon,” Gueant told BFM television, adding the man had thrown a Colt 45 pistol from the house in exchange for a “communication device”.

He still has an Uzi machine gun, a Kalashnikov assault rifle and other weapons, the minister said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, campaigning for re-election in a presidential poll in five weeks time, has blamed racism for Monday’s school attack. His handling of the crisis could be a decisive factor in determining how the French people vote.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen decried the attacks as the result of France’s mistaken policy in Afghanistan and said France should wage war against “these fundamentalist political and religious groups that are killing our children”.

French Interior Minister Gueant said earlier the gunman wanted revenge “for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to attack the French army because of its foreign intervention”.

“He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaida,” he told journalists in Toulouse.

Gueant did not say how they had tracked the man down, but that police were talking to his brother at a separate location in connection with the killings.

France’s Europe 1 radio said he had been picked up by Pakistani intelligence services in Afghanistan’s Kandahar and his details had been sent to the French security services. It gave no date.


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