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Toulouse police assault apartment of Al Qaeda killer 
DEBKAfile Special Report March 22, 2012, 1:23 AM (GMT+02:00)
Tags:  France   Al Qaeda   Terror 
Al Qaeda killer Mohammed Merah

Blasting the door open, Toulouse police assaulted the apartment of al Qaeda gunman Mohammad Merah after midnight Wednesday, March 21 to capture the motorcyclist in black for murdering seven French civilians, three of them children. Heavily armed, he delayed a police raid on the building in which he was holed up by repeatedly promising to surrender after boasting he had acted for al Qaeda to “bring France to its knees." Later he said his only regret was that he had not killed more people. Street lights were doused before the police went in. Residents of the house and vicinity were evacuated ready for a raid.
DEBKAfile: His capture alive is vital in order to extract from him all possible information about al Qaeda and its operations in France and Europe.
Merah and his brother and brother’s girlfriend, who were arrested earlier in the day, will have been questioned about their ties with al Qaeda cells in Europe and other continents.
Questions are already being asked about how French intelligence and counter-terror agencies, which had held  him and family members under surveillance for some time, failed to discover the deadly plans they were hatching against Jewish and Moslem targets.
Mohammed Merah said he had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which countries he visited in 2010 and 2011. A Kandahar prison official identified him as an al Qaeda bomber who was imprisoned for three years and escaped in a mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008.
The detained terrorist and his accomplices will be asked whether the attacks were part of a French Islamic or external politically-motivated master plan to cause President Nicolas Sarkozy to lose the coming presidential election. Islamists have longed pegged him as anti-Muslim, especially after he had the veil for Muslim women banned in public places. They also made a note of his Jewish background.
The expeditious and successful hunt for the motorcyclist in black who murdered a teacher and three children at the Jewish Ozar Hatora school in Toulouse on Monday and two French paratroops in Montauban last Thursday, energized Sarkozy’s sliding campaign for reelection. He showed himself to be capable of handling crises with the right measures of operational competence and sensitivity.
However the dragging-out of the Toulouse house siege by the terrorist’s wiles undercut this gain. Uncomfortable questions about his security service’s handling of a deadly terrorist conspiracy came to the fore and could hurt his prospects.DEBKAfile reported earlier Wednesday.

The killer, aged 24, of Algerian descent, injured three policemen in a shootout shortly after they surrounded the house before dawn Wednesday, March 21. His four Jewish victims were laid to rest in Jerusalem.
Toulouse police hunted him down to an address 2 kilometers from the Ozar Hatorah school where he committed his murders after identifying him as the motorcyclist in black who also killed two French paratroopers and wounded a third in neighboring Montauban last Thursday.
Merah fell under police suspicion after that attack but was not arrested. He was active in the extremist Islamic organization called Forsane Alizze which was only outlawed in February although it was long identified with al Qaeda.
The terrorist called French TV stations after the attacks and said he had avenged French participation in the Afghan war, the suffering of Gaza Palestinians and the Sarkozy government’s ban on the veil in public places for Muslim women. He had videotaped his murders to further propagate their impact.
The Jewish teacher, Yonathan Sandler, 30, his sons Arieh, 3 and Gavriel, 6 and the Ozar Hatorah principal’s daughter, Miriam Monstango, aged 8, whom he shot dead Monday at the Jewish school, were laid to rest at the Har Menuhot cemetery in Jerusalem Wednesday attended by masses of people and notables.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe flew to Israel with the victims and attended the funerals as a mark of French-Israeli solidarity in the face of he terrible murders. "Never doubt our determination to fight anti-Semitism in France which violates all our values and will not be tolerated," he declared.
The dawn raid in Toulouse was accompanied by security police swoops on extremist Muslim hideouts across France.



11.03 French Interior Minister Claude Gueant has just given a remarkable description of the gun battle which ended in Mohammed Merah's death less than half an hour ago. He said the police decided to storm the building after the gunman had threatened to kill police and refused to surrender late last night. Describing the raid itself, he said:
QuoteWe sent in special cameras to be able to see where he was but we could not locate him. It was when we were able to locate him in the bathroom that he came out shooting madly at everybody.
The police had never seen anything like this kind of violence and the RAID officers had to protect themselves.
In the end, Mohammed Merah jumped out of the window, still shooting. He was found dead on the ground.
10.21 Police sources say officers are moving "step by step" through Merah's flat for fear of booby traps. AFP reports:
QuoteThe source said there was no sign yet of suspect Mohamed Merah. "He has not shown himself," the source said.
10.12 Police sources are also now confirming what we told you a moment ago that RAID officers are now in Merah's flat.
10.10 AFP has the following update on claims that the siege is coming to an end.
QuoteThe source said the siege was "rapidly" moving to its conclusion but would not say whether authorities believed suspect Mohamed Merah was alive or dead.
10.08 We now have video footage from the scene at the time of the three blasts.
10.06 AFP says a police source has told them the siege is coming to an end.

00.55 Fabrice Valéry, a journalist with France3, tweets: "At 1:40 three detonations like a gunshot and a loud explosion at 1:48."

00.50 We're hearing reports shots have been fired. Not clear by whom or what they mean. The apparent shots were hollowed by a stronger explosion, possibly a grenade or another breaching device.
00.20 More than 20 hours after the siege began and there's still no resolution in sight. Officers seem to be on the threshold of the apartment but not prepared to storm it.
00.12 France3 reports that the CRS, France's riot police, and Toulouse's local officers have been asked to stay at the first cordon and its only units from RAID that are being allowed near the building.
23.55 An anonymous Interior Ministry officials tells the Associated Pressthat police blew off the shutters outside one of the apartment's windows in an attempt to intimidate Merah into surrendering. Shows the lengths they're prepared to go to take him alive.
23.45 A spokesman for the Interior Ministry has told Reuters:
QuoteThey were moves to intimidate the gunman who seems to have changed his mind and does not want to surrender. There is no assault.
23.38 Fabrice Valéry, a journalist for France3, says a police source has told him negotiations have resumed inside the building where Merah is holed up.

23.25 Still no gunfire. It seems the operation is either over or police are holding back and not pushing all the way into the flat.
23.12 Suggestions that police may not be forcing their way into the apartment but have breached the outer wall as a show of force intended to make Merah surrender. "Certain sources say [police] smashed a door and are wait for the reaction of the suspect. Not officially confirmed," says Soren Seelow, the Le Monde journalist.
23.05 AFP is suggesting that the first explosion may have been the police breaching the apartment while the other two may have been stun grenades hurled into the room. It's been about 20 minutes since the explosions and no reports of gunfire since then.
23.00 No fresh explosions or bangs reported. Not clear whether Merah is attempting to repulse the RAID officers or if he may agree to go peacefully. Police said he earlier that he didn't appear prepared to die for the cause but rather wanted to be a living symbol.
22.55 This siege began at 3am local time. Just under 21 hours later the police have given up on negotiations and are storming the building.
22.50 The police have turned powerful spotlights onto Merah's building in an attempt to blind him and keep him from seeing the police operation closing in around him.
22.44 Flashing now on Reuters:

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