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.

Toulouse massacre analysis

This video is called France Shootings – Toulouse Jewish school attack kills four.

By Alex Lantier in France:

Political issues in the Toulouse shootings

23 March 2012

Elite police units killed Mohamed Merah yesterday after a two-day standoff at his apartment in the French city of Toulouse, where Merah was suspected of killing seven people in a nine-day shooting rampage against paratroopers and Jewish schoolchildren.

As always in the beginning of such cases, one is confined to the evidence presented by the police and the media. According to their accounts, Merah said he decided to embark on this crime spree out of anger at France’s role in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, the banning of the burqa in France, and Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people. Whether or not these accounts are true, Merah is guilty of a terrible crime, whatever motivation underlay the killings.

However, the attack is a political event requiring a political explanation, particularly as it comes in the context of the French presidential elections. The response of France’s leading political parties is deeply cynical, aiming to exploit the tragedy to shift politics further to the right.

This event is a godsend for incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is trying to burnish his right-wing, law-and-order credentials and win the election despite his deep unpopularity.

The shootings have also boosted Marine Le Pen of the neo-fascist National Front (FN).

Recovered from the initial fright that her campaign might be finished if the murderer turned out to be a neo-Nazi killer like Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian fascist who killed 77 people last year in attacks in Oslo and Utoya Island, she now claims the event justifies her calls for social cuts against immigrants and “war” with Islamism.

The daughter of long-time FN leader Jean-Marie Le Pen—who once dismissed the Holocaust as a “detail” of World War II history —she now poses with sickening hypocrisy as a defender of France’s Christian and Jewish youth.

Bringing up the rear is François Hollande, the latest political coward to run as the Socialist Party (PS) candidate. Having indicated shortly before the shootings that he would keep most of Sarkozy’s social cuts and attacks on immigrants and democratic rights, calling in particular for interning the Roma in camps, he is neither able nor willing to say anything that goes against the right-wing media consensus.

How is such a tragedy to be viewed? Anyone capable of such an act of murder against innocent people is deeply disoriented, but this disorientation emerges from a definite social and political context.

Born in 1988, Merah grew up amid a series of neo-colonial wars against Muslim countries launched by the United States and its allies, including France, with ever more open contempt for international law. When he was ten, Washington was resuming its bombing of Iraq after the first Gulf War; by his twentieth birthday, over one million Iraqis had died under US occupation. He witnessed Israel’s suppression of the Palestinian intifada and its invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, and lived through last year’s NATO invasion of Libya, which Sarkozy aggressively promoted, costing at least 50,000 lives.

At the same time, the European ruling classes deepened their social attacks on the working class, while increasingly promoting neo-fascistic policies targeting immigrants to poison the political atmosphere and divide the working class along ethnic lines. In France, this took the form of the promotion of Le Pen and Sarkozy’s policy of banning the burqa and targeting entire ethnic groups like the Roma for deportation.

As they turned to the right after the collapse of the USSR, the official “left” parties—the PS and its political satellites, the Communist Party and the New Anti-Capitalist Party—increasingly supported such policies quite openly, both in and out of power.

This deep corruption of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois “left” parties produced a pathological situation in which broad layers of working class Muslim youth in France were cut off from left-wing opposition to class oppression. At the same time, they were subjected to mass unemployment and vilification in the media.

Under such conditions, it seems inevitable that unstable or disoriented individuals would register their opposition through acts of violence, or even murder. It appears that Merah was one such individual. A mechanic who struggled with his temper and had a history of petty crimes, he was drawn to the army and embittered by the French Foreign Legion’s refusal to accept him as a soldier in 2010.

Ultimately, Merah was drawn to the reactionary panaceas of right-wing Islamists and took to viewing Islamist lectures to register his opposition to the victimization of Muslims. He then traveled, under unclear circumstances and with the knowledge of US and French intelligence, to Afghanistan and a number of other Muslim countries, before returning to France.

By exploiting this tragedy to justify more police-state and anti-immigrant measures, the French ruling elite is further brutalizing the working class and escalating the policies which produced Merah’s crime in the first place.

Toulouse armed standoff at suspect’s house; questions


By Alex Lantier in France:

French police in armed standoff with alleged Toulouse gunman

22 March 2012

Yesterday evening, an armed standoff continued in Toulouse between Mohamed Merah, the alleged gunman in a spate of shootings in southern France, and elite police units. Officials claim he is responsible for the deaths of seven people in three attacks since March 11—three paratroopers in two shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban, and four civilians in an attack Monday on the Jewish Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse.

A RAID (Search, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence) unit attacked Merah in his apartment shortly after 3AM yesterday. He fired back, reportedly wounding two officers. After a standoff during the day, police again assaulted the apartment around midnight, blasting away a door and blowing a hole in a wall.

Authorities assert that Merah, aged 23, has Al Qaeda sympathies. They insist that he carried out the killings alone. Based on the wildly contradictory reports circulating in the media, however, it is unclear whether any of these statements are true.

Merah bears little physical resemblance to eye-witness descriptions of the perpetrator in the Montauban shooting. Witnesses said the gunman was “corpulent.” They also said they saw a tattoo and scar on his left cheek when the visor of his motorcycle helmet flipped open. However, pictures of Merah released to the media show a slender man with no facial hair or markings.

Nor are reports of Merah’s links to Al Qaeda any more convincing.

If someone is really an Al Qaeda member, then you don’t expect him to act alone, as the police claims.

Reports that the suspect wanted to sell a videotape of the Toulouse atrocity to the media, looking as if money was the motive, also don’t point in the direction of Al Qaeda.

They rely on conflicting accounts and an alleged confession in a call placed from a public telephone booth to the night editor of France24 television, Ebba Kalondo. French officials claimed to be “98 percent” sure that the caller was Merah. Kalondo’s story was widely reported as fact by French media and TV outlets.

Interior Minister Claudé Guéant said that Merah had been followed for years by the DCRI (Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence) after he traveled to Afghanistan in 2007. Kandahar prison chief Ghulam Faruq said Merah was jailed by Afghan forces on December 19, 2007 for planting bombs in Kandahar. Pakistani officials told Reuters that Merah had never been arrested in Kandahar, however, and claimed to have “no information about him.” Afghan officials told the BBC that the man jailed in Kandahar was probably someone else with the same name.

French counter-terrorism official François Molins said Merah was arrested again in Afghanistan last year and returned to France by the US. Anonymous American officials contradicted this account, telling the BBC that French forces flew Merah back to France.

According to a friend of Merah interviewed by Le Figaro, however, he worked primarily as an auto body repairman in Toulouse. He spent a few months in jail three years ago for “petty theft,” after which he was followed by police. He unsuccessfully tried to join the French army. Merah’s lawyer, Christian Etelin, said Merah was never involved in “violent delinquency.”

Finally, reports of investigations of Merah’s belongings throw in question claims that he was acting alone. Authorities reported they are searching for a Renault Mégane car belonging to him and containing revolvers, UZI automatic weapons and shotguns. They also said he owned a Renault Clio car containing weapons, as well as “three safe houses” in the Toulouse area. It is unclear how Merah could possibly have afforded this, as investigators told Le Figaro that his income was “on the level of welfare payments.”

If these accounts are to be believed, however, a man closely watched by French intelligence and police was somehow left free to carry out a murderous rampage over 10 days in Toulouse and nearby Montauban. He was even apparently in contact with police sources in the run-up to the attack on the Ozar Hatoreh school.

Live Coverage: Toulouse siege of suspect in Jewish school shooting enters second day: here.

UPDATE: suspect Merah dead: here.

Toulouse cannot be explained as an isolated hate crime or the deed of one fanatic: 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.