Published on Mar 22, 2012
The French Interior minister says Mohammed Merah, the prime suspect in seven murders in and around Toulouse, died Thursday morning in a jump from an apartment window after "shooting madly" at police who raided the building.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said police entered the apartment Thursday after hearing nothing from Merah overnight, only to be ambushed by the suspect who "came out of the bathroom shooting madly at everybody."
"At the end, Mohammed Merah jumped out the window with a weapon in his hand, continuing to shoot. He was found dead on the ground," said Gueant.
Merah had boasted of bringing France "to its knees" with an al Qaeda-linked terror spree that killed seven people before taking refuge in the surrounded apartment for a 32 hour standoff.
Riot police set a series of three large explosions outside the apartment building, and then gunfire was heard and there were reports that gas was fired into the apartment to try and subdue the suspect before the special operations officers entered the building for the raid which ended with Merah's death and three police officers injured, one of them seriously.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said earlier in the morning, before the explosions and gunfire, that it was "unclear" whether the suspect was even still alive. He had not contacted negotiators since Wednesday night, raising suspicions that he may have committed suicide.
Hundreds of heavily armed police, some in body armor, surrounded the five-story building in Toulouse where Merah had been holed up since the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday.
Authorities said the shooter, a French citizen of Algerian descent, had been to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he claimed to have received training from al Qaeda.
Southern France shootings
View the Full Gallery »
One of two trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan that Merah is thought to have made, he was arrested by Afghan forces on charges which remain unconfirmed. CNN reported Wednesday that Afghan forces offered to hand him over to the U.S. military, but the Americans declined and suggested he be handed instead to French forces, given his nationality. According to the CNN report, it was French forces who put him on a plane back to France.
The year in which that arrest and return to France took place remains unclear, but an Afghan prison official told CBS News on Wednesday that a north African man of the same name was jailed in 2008 but escaped later that year. It is believed that Merah also traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2011.
They said he told negotiators he killed a rabbi and three young children at a Jewish school on Monday and three French paratroopers last week to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army's involvement in Afghanistan, as well as a government ban last year on face-covering Islamic veils.
"He has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees," Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.
Standard YouTube License