FRENCH TERROR SUSPECT KILLED DURING ELITE POLICE RAID IN TOULOUSE

Fox News with AP reported on March 22, 2012, that the suspect in a terrorist Islam-linked killing spree in southern France was killed after police raided his apartment to end a 32-hour standoff, the French interior minister said.

…police wanted to capture Merah alive. Authorities say Merah has boasted about carrying out the shootings of three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi, and three French paratroopers in three separate incidents over the last two weeks. They are believed to be the first incidents of killings inspired by Islamic radical motives in France in more than a decade.

Elite police squads set off sporadic blasts throughout the night and into the morning — some blew off the apartment’s shutters — in what officials described as a tactic aimed to pressure 24-year-old Merah to give up.

Police were using their advantages — numbers, firepower and psychological pressure — in hopes of wearing down Merah, who had no water, electricity, gas or most likely sleep since the early hours of Wednesday.

Holed up alone in an otherwise evacuated apartment building, Merah clung to his few remaining assets, like a small arsenal and authorities’ hopes of taking him alive. He appeared to toy with police negotiators — first saying he would surrender Wednesday afternoon, then under the cover of darkness, then reneging on those pledges altogether, officials said.

Authorities said Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, espoused a radical terrorist form of Islam and had been to Afghanistan and the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, where he claimed to have received training from Al Qaeda.

French authorities — like others across Europe — have long been concerned about “lone-wolf” attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who find radical beliefs online, since they are harder to find and track.

Christian Etelin, Merah’s lawyer, said Merah had tried to join the military but was rejected. He said Merah was also disillusioned after a string of convictions for petty crimes and after efforts to reduce his sentences through work programs failed.

In a news conference Wednesday, prosecutor Francois Molins said Merah “has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people, and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees.”

He said Merah had plans to kill another soldier — prompting the police raid at around 3 a.m. Wednesday. After it erupted into a firefight, wounding two police, a standoff ensued, with on-and-off negotiations with the suspect that lasted through the night.

The SITE Intelligence Group said a lesser-known jihadist group is claiming responsibility for the shootings in France.

SITE, which monitors jihadist messages on the Internet, said the group issued a statement in jihadist forums saying “Yusuf of France” led an attack Monday, the day of shootings that killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse.

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