Death with a Gun in His Hand French Elite Police Kill Terror Suspect Merah

Suspected serial killer Mohamed Merah is dead following a firefight with elite police in Toulouse. French prosecutors have confirmed that the terror suspect filmed his crimes as he murdered his victims, who included soldiers and Jewish children.
French elite police leave the scene following the killing of Mohamed Merah in a gunbattle on Thursday morning in Toulouse, France.

French elite police leave the scene following the killing of Mohamed Merah in a gunbattle on Thursday morning in Toulouse, France.

Foto: JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/ Reuters

Mohamed Merah's life ended just beneath the window to his bathroom. That's where police found the man suspected of having murdered seven people in a killing spree in Toulouse and Montauban, France. The suspect had tried to jump out the window from the first floor after French elite police stormed his apartment on Thursday morning. As he fell, Merah fired at police, but sharpshooters returned those shots as he jumped -- killing him before he hit the ground.

French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said police had forced their way through the windows and doors into the apartment and sent in cameras mounted on robots to get a better view. They also detonated flash grenades and set off smoke bombs. When Merah failed to respond, officials with RAID, a special operations tactical unit of the National Police, began conducting a room-by-room hunt for the perpetrator just before 11 a.m. local time in France.

Fotostrecke

Photo Gallery: Suspected French Terrorist Killed in Raid

Foto: Remy de la Mauvinere/ AP

At that point, the suspect suddenly stormed out of the bathroom and fired on police with several weapons. "The killer came out of the bathroom while firing with extreme violence," Guéant told reporters. "The bursts were frequent, very hard. In the end, Mohamed Merah jumped out the window with a gun in his hand, continuing to fire."

'An Extremely Difficult Mission'

"He was found dead," Guéant said. French private news channel BFM is reporting that more than 300 rounds were fired during the shootout. Guéant thanked police officers for completing "an extremely difficult mission."

The interior minister said that, during his last contact with police, Merah had indicated that he would not give up and that he would fire on police if attacked. Guéant also added that the RAID special police unit had decided to attack on Thursday morning because it recognized the extreme threat Merah presented.

However, it could also be that the officials had simply lost patience. On Wednesday, Merah had stated several times he wanted to turn himself in -- but he ignored each deadline.

France's chief anti-terror prosecutor, François Molins, defended the deadly police deployment on Thursday, saying that the decision to carry out the raid was a legitimate act of self-defense and that everything possible had been done to try to capture Merah alive. Interior Minister Guéant likewise quoted Merah as saying he wanted to die with a weapon in his hand.

On Thursday afternoon, Molins also confirmed that Merah had filmed all of his crimes. Merah's camera had been found in a bag, and the images contained on it were upsettingly clear. As he fired a deadly shot to the head of his first victim, he reportedly said: "You killed my brother, and I'm killing you." Speaking to the police, he allegedly said: "If I die, then I will go to paradise. If you die, then tough luck for you."

Investigators are currently trying to determine whether Merah posted the films online.

Investigation Continues into Possible Accomplices

Prosecutor Molins also stated that a car had been found with two Uzi and Sten automatic pistols as well as shotguns. In another, they found a weapon and cash. Officials are continuing to investigate whether Merah had any accomplices or whether he was acting on behalf of others. Three people are currently being held for questioning, including Merah's brother.

In talks with police on Wednesday, Merah claimed he was part of the al-Qaida terrorist network. However, although he identified himself as a "mujahedeen," the authorities said he appeared to have no connections to any underground movement.

Following Merah's death, tension among police, residents and reporters from all over the world in Toulouse's Côte Pavée district began to ease on Thursday. But the case is still far from closed. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that police are still searching for possible accomplices, and that the investigation is ongoing.

Still, Thursday's firefight marked the end of a harrowing, 30-hour standoff between Merah and hundreds of elite police officers. Merah had been holed up in the apartment since shortly after 3 a.m. on Wednesday. He went silent that night, with no further signs of life.

Merah is believed to have traveled to the region along the Afghan-Pakistani border on several occasions to receive military training. He is suspected of having killed four people, including three children, in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse, as well as three soldiers. Each time, he fled the scene of the crime on a scooter.

dsl -- with wires
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