Mohamed Merah, the man behind the Toulouse killing spree, is dead after a 32 hour siege ended in grenade explosions and gunfire.
He jumped out of his bathroom window blazing an automatic pistol as police broke through, and was found dead where he fell.
Two police commandos were wounded in the raid on the gunman’s flat, one of them seriously, after he refused to give himself up and vowed to die fighting.
Commandos used video cameras to check rooms for signs of life, but when they entered the bathroom Merah came out “blazing away with a submachine gun.”
One experienced police commando said he had never seen anyone attack police so violently.
During a furious close-quarters battle in which Merah wielded an Uzi, he was shot in the head as he jumped out of the bathroom window. French Interior Minister Claude Gueant revealed details of the operation shortly after it ended.
More than 300 bullets were fired in the shootout and at least 30 of them were fired by Merah, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest. French prosecutor Francois Molins said that “everything was done to try to arrest him alive,” but the man chose to carry out his earlier-declared intention to die “with a gun in his hand.”
Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin claiming association with Al-Qaeda, confessed to killing four people outside a Jewish school and three French soldiers in separate attacks in the Toulouse region.
Merah had told police he did not want to surrender and that if attacked, he would shoot to kill. Police had already attempted to detain the gunman on Wednesday night, but Merah fired back and injured three officers, forcing them to retreat.
While the investigation is underway into whether or not shooting spree suspect had accomplices, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned against any retribution against the country’s Muslim community, saying “our fellow Muslim citizens have nothing to do with this crazy murderous act of terrorism.”
Merah, according to his own words, “has brought France to its knees.” His only regret was “not having more time to kill more people.”
During the long and difficult negotiations, the authorities described Merah as a man of strong temperament. Merah himself said he had neither a suicidal spirit, nor a martyr’s soul, and “preferred to kill and remain alive.”
He admitted to the killing of seven people, saying he did it to take revenge for the French foreign interventions and “killings of Palestinian children in the Middle East.”
Merah had recorded all his three deadly shootings and presumably uploaded the videos to the internet, but so far the authorities have failed to find where they are located online.
Prosecutor Francois Molins, however, said the police have viewed the videos. During his first killing of a paratrooper on March 11, Merah was heard saying “You kill my brothers. I kill you,” and four days later, when killing two other soldiers, he shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Despite all of this, the UK based newspaper the Daily Mail was quick to accuse “neo-nazis” of the crimes without any proof whatsoever.
Merah was linked to Al-Qaeda and received instructions from the group to carry out a suicide mission in France, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said. Merah refused to blow himself up, though he agreed to carry out a general mission to commit an attack in France, which eventually ended with his death.
French authorities had been tracking Merah for several years before the tragic events. They knew he espoused a radical form of Islam and had been to Afghanistan and the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan.
Belgian MEP Philip Claeys believes Europe should adopt a much firmer stance on those citizens who are known to have been in “terrorist training camps” and “taken part in hostile activities.”
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