Was Merah the Toulouse murderer?

This video is called Toulouse school shooting victims buried.

By Antoine Lerougetel in France:

Mohamed Merah’s family denies he was Toulouse, France gunman

31 March 2012

The family of Mohamed Merah, whom French police accused of carrying out a wave of deadly shootings in Toulouse and Montauban between March 11 and 19, has emphatically denied that he was a terrorist or carried out the killings. Merah was killed by an elite police unit after a 32-hour siege of his flat last Thursday.

His half-brother Rachid Merah, who lives in Algeria, told FranceInfo television: “I have no idea of what the media and the politicians are talking about. They say that Mohammed has been in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that he was in contact with Al Qaeda. But I categorically deny it. And I doubt whether he has had any links with Al Qaeda or the Taliban or any terrorist organisation in the world. And proof of that is that France killed him before he could speak in court, when they could have caught him alive.”

Rachid Merah’s comments come after similar questions were raised by police experts, such as Claude Prouteau of the Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie (GIGN), who noted that the special police unit that killed Merah could easily have captured him alive. Instead, the police stormed Merah’s flat and killed him in a hail of nearly 300 bullets. During the siege, Interior Minister Claude Guéant nonetheless had asserted that everything would be done to capture Merah alive, so he could stand trial.

Commenting on the weapons and videos of the shooting that police reportedly found in Merah’s flat, Rachid Merah referred to well-publicized reports that Merah was functioning as an informer for French intelligence: “But as for the weapons we can suppose that he was manipulated by the French secret services, because he was young and easily influenced. They could well have bought him. They used him then they killed him. All scenarios are possible. Who can prove that Mohamed Merah filmed the videos [of the shootings] himself? It could well be someone else.”

Rachid Merah added: “You reap what you sow. They kill our children in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, they should recognise their responsibility. The minister of the interior has said that Mohamed was a monster….but I reply that they have created this monster which killed children.”

Rachid Merah’s comments came after similar statements by Mohamed Merah’s father, Mohamed Benalal Merah. He said: “They should have arrested him and investigated the case with him. Perhaps it wasn’t he who killed them. By killing my son, the French security services have lost proof, and I have lost my son.”

These statements come as the state’s official version of events—that Merah was undetectable because he was a “self-radicalizing lone wolf” who behaved normally until he assassinated seven people—is being exposed as a fabrication. Instead, he was operating in close contact with French intelligence agencies and in direct collaboration with one and possibly several as-yet unidentified accomplices.

The main evidence used to incriminate Merah were the weapons found in his apartment, and the police’s claims that he confessed to the crime in negotiations and phone calls with them. This evidence has not been released to the public, however, and there is still room for doubt as to whether Merah in fact was the killer. An eyewitness of the Montauban shooting reported that the killer was stout and had a scarred, tattooed cheek—unlike the slim, smooth-faced Mohamed Merah.

French commandos deliberately killed alleged mass murderer Mohammed Merah rather than try to catch him alive, his family lawyer claimed yesterday: here.

Merah was not known for his piety: He did not belong to any religious congregation; he did not belong to any radical group or even to a local Islamic movement: here.

Statements by intelligence officials in Toulouse raise new questions about the French government’s responsibility in killings committed by Mohamed Merah: here.

French police detain 19 alleged Islamist militants: here.


Toulouse massacre aftermath

This video from France is called Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah dead, jumps to his death in hail of bullets.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Questions emerge over police handling of Toulouse, France killings

24 March 2012

Details emerging about Mohamed Merah, the alleged gunman in a series of murders in the Toulouse area from March 11 to March 19, raise serious questions about the conduct of French intelligence and police agencies.

Merah allegedly killed one paratrooper in Toulouse on March 11, two paratroopers in nearby Montauban on March 15, and a father and several children at a Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19. He was killed in an armed standoff with police at his Toulouse apartment Thursday, shot in the head by a sniper as he fell from his balcony.

Officials are scrambling to explain how Merah—though known to both French intelligence (DCRI, Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence) and to police—operated undetected for over a week, and why he was killed in the operation.

Speaking to Europe1 radio Thursday, Foreign Minister Alain Juppé admitted: “I understand why one would ask if there was an error or not. As I do not know whether there was an error, I cannot tell you what type of error, but we must shed light on this.”

Christian Prouteau, the founder of the GIGN (Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie), a counterterrorism squad that rivals the elite police unit that killed Merah, criticized the assault yesterday. He said he was surprised that the standoff ended in Merah’s death: “How is it that the best police unit cannot arrest a lone man? They could have hit him with tear gas. Instead they threw armfuls of grenades at him. The result was that the criminal was put in a psychological state to continue his ‘war.’”

He added: “It may appear presumptuous, but in 64 GIGN operations under my command, there was not a single fatality.” Echoing comments by local Toulouse police, Prouteau asked why police did not simply wait in ambush outside Merah’s apartment and detain him as he left; this technique is apparently used often against Basque nationalists and mafia operatives.

These questions arose as incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy seeks to exploit the tragedy to push for wide-ranging police state powers, and to burnish his law-and-order credentials for next month’s presidential elections.

A recent CSA poll taken after the shootings showed Sarkozy increasing his vote, winning 30 percent of the vote in the first round of the elections versus 28 percent for Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande. Hollande is still expected to win the second round of the elections, however, due to Sarkozy’s unpopularity outside the UMP’s voter base.

In a televised speech Thursday, Sarkozy called for “criminal punishment” of anyone reading internet sites that promote “terrorism” or “hatred,” traveling abroad for “indoctrination,” defending “extremist ideologies,” or promoting them inside prisons. Such proposals, couched in such broad terms as to allow the state to criminalize virtually any oppositional politics, trample basic constitutional rights of free speech and travel.

Magistrates Union official Marie-Blanche Régnier said Sarkozy’s call was a “political maneuver.” She rhetorically asked whether he would include Marine Le Pen, the neo-fascist candidate whose voters Sarkozy has aggressively wooed with anti-immigrant rhetoric, on the list of “extremists.”

Under conditions in which the PS, the Communist Party (PCF), and the New Anti-capitalist Party are not challenging Sarkozy’s calls for “national unity,” most objections to the investigations have come from police and security specialists. However, the details that have surfaced already make clear that, if Merah was indeed the killer, he was able to carry out the murders only due to a remarkable breakdown of French police and intelligence operations.

Given the immense political stakes in Sarkozy’s exploitation of the shootings, it is only logical to ask whether there is any connection between this breakdown of intelligence and Sarkozy’s attempt to save his chances in the upcoming elections.

Shortly after the March 15 Montauban killings, officials were already saying they were exploring “all possible suspects” in the murders. According to the daily Libération, when on March 19 Toulouse police provided investigators with a list of Islamist “radicals” in the Toulouse area, it had only six names on it, and Merah’s was at the top of the list. Merah was therefore well known to police.

After the Montauban killings, however, Merah was apparently not identified—even though his mother’s IP address was on a police list of computers that had been in contact with the March 11 victim. This list was examined carefully by investigators, and it eventually played a role in Merah’s capture. However, investigators apparently did not cross-check this list with the list of Islamists until Monday the 19, after the killings at the Ozar Hatoreh school.

Defense expert François Heisbourg told Libération, “There are only a few dozen Frenchmen who have traveled to Afghanistan, and only a few units in the Midi-Pyrénées region [around Toulouse]. One wonders why no one paid more attention to him! One can perhaps understand this before the Toulouse and Montauban killings—it’s surprising, but not shocking. But afterwards? This means that either the agencies involved are completely out of cash, or they are not doing their job.”

He added, “I am puzzled when I hear the Paris and Toulouse prosecutors explain that they did not have the suspect’s address. It seems the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) interrogated him in the autumn and concluded he was not dangerous. How did they contact him if they did not have his address?”

Heisbourg also raised questions about Merah’s training as a gunman, apparently acquired during a couple of trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, though he spent most of his time working as a mechanic: “This ‘lone wolf’ acted in ways the most experienced mafiosi do not dare attempt. He ran his operation himself, and carried out the killings with an unprecedented degree of cold calculation and absence of hysteria. Even the September 11 terrorists were more unnerved. He has therefore received absolutely first-rate training. Who trained him and how?”

Indeed, some questions remain as to whether Merah in fact was the killer. He did not resemble the description given by witnesses at the Montauban shooting, who spoke of a corpulent figure with tattoos and a scar on the left cheek. By contrast, Merah was thin and had no facial markings.

Civil rights groups have warned that the French president’s plan to jail people who visit “extremist” websites directly threatens freedom of expression and information: here.

The Toulouse killings and racism in France: here.

Jews, Muslims murdered in France

This is a video of a demonstration in Paris, protesting the murders in Toulouse.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Police continue hunt for French school killer

Tuesday 20 March 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Schools across France held a moment of silence for the victims of the deadliest school shooting the country has seen in decades.

Police blanketed the south searching for the killer.

President Nicolas Sarkozy warned that “a monster is on the loose”

Of course, every reasonable person will agree that this murder of Jewish children and a teacher is horrible and monstrous.

However, Mr Sarkozy should seriously ask himself whether right-wing politicians, of the neo-fascist Front National (National Front) of Jean-Marie Le Pen and his daughter Marine, but also Mr Sarkozy himself, have contributed to creating a climate favourable for crimes like this.

Members of the National Front have openly praised Norwegian extreme Right mass murderer Breivik. Front boss Le Pen denies Hitler’s Shoah. A Front National supporter like Brigitte Bardot preaches both hatred of Jews and Islamophobia.

Sarkozy and people of his administration have recently, in the French presidential election campaign, attacked Jews for kosher food and Muslims for halal food.

and Interior Minister Claude Gueant confirmed that police believed the gunman, who sped away on a motorcycle after the attack, may have filmed his actions.

“He was wearing an apparatus around his neck” that could be used to film and post videos online, the minister told reporters, though he added that while this information helped investigators they were no closer to an arrest.

The deaths of the rabbi, his two children and another child at a Jewish school in Toulouse were almost immediately linked to the deaths of paratroopers killed in Toulouse and Montauban.

Those murdered soldiers were of North African ancestry, so prabably Muslims; and of black Caribbean ancestry. Like Jews, favourite targets for “white nationalist” neo-nazi criminals.

Mr Gueant has suggested that the killing spree may be linked to the case of three paratroopers who were expelled from a regiment near Toulouse in 2008 for alleged neonazi activities, including being photographed doing nazi salutes in front of a swastika flag.

However, he admitted that this was merely one possibility “not favoured any more than the others” and that the perpetrator or perpetrators had not been identified.

Police raised the terror threat level across much of the country’s south to scarlet – the highest possible – and boosted security around both Jewish and Muslim institutions. Mr Sarkozy met with leaders from both communities yesterday.

France has the highest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe, at 500,000 and five million.

Murders in France follow Sarkozy’s racist speech: here.

By Alex Lantier in France:

One witness in Montauban said the visor on the gunman’s helmet briefly flipped up, revealing an extensive tattoo and a scar on his left cheek. She described him as being solidly built and of medium height.

At 9PM yesterday evening, the news magazine Le Point reported that police were searching for three paratroopers dismissed from the 17th Parachute Regiment in 2008 after they posed for photographs wearing neo-Nazi uniforms and standing in front of a flag with a swastika. Jamel Benserhir, the former soldier who reported them to officers at the time, said they had “explicit tattoos.”

The Francazal base was involved in a tragic scandal in 1989, when four paratroopers were found guilty of torturing and murdering three young women and killing a forest ranger.

French paratroopers have a history of torture and other crimes, like during the Algerian colonial war (in which Jean Marie Le Pen participated as well).

Wars, like the Afghan war which Mr Sarkozy supports and the Somalia war which Sarkozy supports as well, create a climate for violent crimes. In Afghan villages close to United States Special Forces bases. And at the “home front” in France and elsewhere.

Alex Lantier continued:

Others, however, felt obliged to acknowledge the political link between the targeting of religious or ethnic minorities and the development of French bourgeois politics. Le Nouvel Observateur cited Abderrahmane Dahmane, a former Sarkozy adviser, as criticizing Sarkozy’s right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the FN. Dahmane said, “These acts are a strong signal sent to politicians and particularly to those who, in recent months, have played with fire… These attacks are the consequence of a campaign that has been particularly violent and hateful towards religious minorities.”

Chris Hedges | Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War. Chris Hedges, Truthdig in the USA: “The war in Afghanistan – where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal – feeds the culture of atrocity…. Civilians and combatants merge into one detested nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short”: here.

The latest slaughter in Afghanistan is part of a decade of savage civilian killing: until Nato leaves, it is certain to continue: here.