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Homeland Security

Toulouse Massacre Suspect Ready to Surrender

RIA Novosti

15:42 21/03/2012 MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti) - A man suspected of carrying out a series of deadly massacres across southern France, including an attack on a Jewish school on Monday in Toulouse, said he would surrender later on Wednesday after being besieged by police in his apartment, French media reported.

"He (the suspect) said … will turn himself in this afternoon," French Interior Minister Claude Gueant who is coordinating the police operation on the scene told BFM TV. Gueant said the man had thrown a Colt pistol out of the house in exchange for a "communication device."

The suspect, identified as Mohammed Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, is suspected of shooting dead three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday, and also shooting three soldiers of North African descent in Montauban last week. He is also suspected of shooting two off-duty soldiers in Toulouse in an earlier incident.

Hundreds of policemen and emergency services trucks, involved in the operation, are continuing to besiege the house where 24-year-old Merah is holed up. Three policemen are reported to have been slightly injured during an exchange of fire at the scene earlier on Wednesday.

Police have already taken into police custody Merah’s two brothers and his mother, who earlier refused to hold talks with her son since she “had little influence on him," Gueant said.

Two hours before the police siege, Merah called the France 24 TV channel and delivered a statement about the details of his recent crimes, the deputy head of France 24 Arabic service, Nahida Nakad told RIA Novosti.

“He called at 1 a.m., and speaking very good French, said that it was he who was responsible for the shootings in Montauban and Toulouse,” Nakad said, adding that the man said he was linked to al-Qaeda’s French wing and that he was acting against “the ban on wearing Muslim veils and France’s participation in the Afghan military operation.”

Gueant said the man had links to people who call themselves "Salafist or jihadist" and that he “has made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past.”

Merah sought revenge for “the deaths of Palestinian children…and attack French army for its interventions abroad," Gueant said.

France's domestic intelligence agency (DCRI) have long been monitoring Merah, but “there was never anything to suggest that he was preparing a criminal act," Gueant said.

"He was in the DCRI's sights, as were others, after the first two attacks," an official said, referring to the earlier shootings in Montauban and Toulouse.

The bodies of the four killed in Toulouse on Monday were delivered to Jerusalem on Wednesday, where they will be given a Jewish burial.

French president Nicholas Sarkozy said on Wednesday that France should not give way to racial discrimination or vengeance after the recent killings.

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