French police forces raided a house in Toulouse where a 24-year-old man, a French national of Algerian decent and possibly linked to al-Qaeda, is holed up. He is suspected in the murder of four people, including three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday. The suspect’s brother was arrested. Three police officers were injured in a shoot-out.
A police source said the raid began at 3 am local time (0200 GMT) and was ongoing. Sky News reported that negotiations with the suspect have failed and that officers are preparing to storm the house.
The suspect claims to be linked to al-Qaeda, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.
“He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaeda,” Gueant told journalists at the scene of the siege.
He also said the man had been in Afghanistan. “He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions,” Gueant said.
He said that police were also talking to the brother of the man who, Gueant said, was 24 years old.
“Negotiations with the suspect are ongoing, gunfire has been exchanged,” the minister said.
He said that France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy had been informed of the situation at 03:00 am (0200 GMT), when the raid began. He said three police officers have been injured in the raid. One officer was injured in the knee and another officer lightly injured in ensuing exchanges of fire, Gueant said.
Officers brought the suspect’s mother to the scene and tried to get her to help negotiate, but she refused, saying “she had little influence on him,” Gueant said.
French news channel BFM TV said the suspects were linked to an Islamist group which it identified as Forsane Alizza. BFM said police were negotiating with a 24-year-old man inside the house.
Reuters witnesses at the scene heard several shots at about 0440 GMT.
Heavily armed police in bullet-proof vests and helmets cordoned off the residential area where the raid was taking place, in a leafy suburb close to the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school where Monday’s shootings took place.
The France 24 network reported that the suspect is cooperating with the police.
Meanwhile, the bodies of the four victims landed at the Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday morning. They will be buried at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem at 10 am on Wednesday.
Authorities believe that the gunman in Monday’s school shooting was the same person responsible for killing three soldiers of North African origin in two shootings last week in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban.
A third soldier, of Caribbean origin, remains in a coma.
The same Colt 45 handgun was used in all three attacks and in each case the gunman arrived on a Yamaha scooter with his face hidden by a motorcycle helmet.