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French shooting suspect dies after 32-hour standoff with police

March 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The suspect in a French killing spree has died after a 32-hour standoff with police on Thursday, according to officials.

Authorities initially thought 23-year-old Mohamed Merah died after jumping out of an apartment window. They later confirmed he had first been shot in the head by a sniper.

Merah, who boasted of ties to al Qaeda and traveled to Afghanistan for training, burst out of his bathroom when police quietly entered his apartment, wildly firing his gun about 30 times before jumping out an apartment window. Police said they tried to take him alive, but he gave them no choice but to open fire.

Merah was wanted in the deaths of three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi - all killed since March 11. Police found evidence inside his apartment that he videotaped all of the killings.

He allegedly told negotiators he committed the killings to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army's involvement in Afghanistan. He showed no remorse for the killings and told authorities his only regret was that he did not have time to kill more people.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Internet messages, said Thursday that a jihadist group called Jund al-Khilafah is claiming responsibility for Merah's attacks. The claim has yet to be independently confirmed.

Some members of Paris' Muslim community fear his death will leave many important questions unanswered.

Merah was tracked down by special investigators. They found his mother's computer, which he used to respond to an online ad posted by the first victim, a paratrooper trying to sell his scooter. Authorities also found a Yamaha motorcycle shop where Merah suspiciously sought information about how to deactivate a GPS tracker.

His mother and a brother were detained Wednesday by police. His brother Abdelkader had already been linked to Iraqi Islamist networks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is promising a full investigation to see if Merah did have help. He is also promising harsh treatment for anyone who travels overseas to train with known terrorists.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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