France shootings: Video of shooting spree ‘not posted by killer’
A VIDEO filmed by al Qaeda-inspired gunman Mohamed Merah of his attacks on soldiers and a Jewish school and sent to the Arab broadcaster al-Jazeera was not sent by the killer, French police have said.
Al-Jazeera announced yesterday it had decided not to air the footage, received late on Monday, that seems to have been filmed from the killer’s point of view and includes the cries of his victims.
The decision came after president Nicolas Sarkozy asked al-Jazeera not to broadcast it.
A memory stick sent to the broadcaster contained footage of the three shootings in chronological order, edited together with Islamic chants and readings from the Koran, al Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief Zied Tarrouche said.
Mr Tarrouche said the video was difficult to watch. “You hear the voice of the person who carried out the killings. You also hear the victims’ cries,” he said. “My feelings are those of any human being who sees horrible things.”
A French official close to the investigation said it was not sent by Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman who was killed in a shoot-out last Thursday after a 32-hour stand-off with police at his apartment building in Toulouse.
Another official said the envelope sent to al-Jazeera was postmarked on Wednesday at a large postal processing centre for the area around Toulouse, meaning it was unclear exactly where it was sent from. Prosecutors have said that Merah filmed all of his attacks, which began on 11 March with the murder of a French soldier. Before the spree ended, two more soldiers and three Jewish children and a rabbi were killed, while another student and another paratrooper were wounded.
Preliminary charges for complicity in murder and terrorism have been filed against Merah’s older brother, Abdelkader, though no evidence has emerged that he took part directly in the shooting. Abdelkader was already known to security services for having helped smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007.
Police said that during the apartment siege, Merah admitted to all the attacks and had told them he had links to al-Qaeda, travelled to Afghanistan and received weapons training in the militant Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan – a claim backed up by militants in the region.
Mr Sarkozy has called the attacks isolated acts of violence, the work of a “lone wolf” – but investigators have questioned some of Merah’s claims and say they are open to the possibility of accomplices.
French media said yesterday the brothers’ Algerian father – who left the family when his youngest son was five years old – planned to take legal action against the French government over his son’s death.
Benalel Mohamed Merah said he believed elite French police units could have used gas to seize his son.
Mr Merah told French media: “France is a big country that had the means to take my son alive.”
His threat of legal action was swiftly branded as “indecent” by president Sarkozy’s senior advisor Henri Guiano.
French foreign minister Alain Juppe said on live radio: “If I was the father of a monster like that, I’d shut up out of shame.”
The gunman’s family has decided to have him buried in Algeria, his parents’ native country, to avoid a grave in France being attacked or becoming a place of pilgrimage for extremists, an official at the Paris mosque said.
Meanwhile, an Italian newspaper claimed yesterday that Merah had spied for the French secret service in the Middle East before carrying out his killing spree.
The fanatic was used as an informer by France’s DGSE intelligence agency as he travelled to Israel, Jordan and Afghanistan in 2010, it was alleged.
Il Foglio newspaper reported that Israeli sources said he travelled through the Middle East in late 2010 with the “full knowledge and support” of the DGSE spy agency in Paris.
It said French agents agreed to allow Merah to travel freely in return for him giving them vital information about Islamic terror cells in the region.
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