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Homeland Security

Police Negotiate Surrender of French School Shooting Suspect

March 21, 2012

VOA News

French police are negotiating the surrender of a man suspected in the shooting deaths of seven people, including three Jewish children at a school in Toulouse.

Officials say the suspect is 24-year-old Mohammed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin who claims links to al-Qaida and had been previously detained in Afghanistan.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant says police are determined to take Merah alive. An early morning raid Wednesday to arrest him at the Toulouse house where he is holed up erupted into gunfire, leaving two officers wounded.

Police arrested his brother shortly after.

Gueant says the suspect was angry about French military intervention abroad and said he wanted to avenge Palestinian children killed in the Middle East. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the killings, saying it is time for criminals to stop using the Palestinians to justify their cause.

The gunman is accused of murdering a rabbi and three children -- ages four, five, and seven -- at the Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday before driving off on a motorcycle.

Their bodies were flown to Israel for burial and thousands of sobbing mourners, including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, are attending their funerals at the Givat Shaul cemetery outside Jerusalem.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and opposition presidential candidates Francois Hollande and Marine Le Pen, have temporarily suspended their election campaigns out of respect for the victims.

French police say the alleged shooter used the same gun to kill three French soldiers of African and French Caribbean origin last week in Toulouse and a nearby town.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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