Two held in search for gunman’s accomplices

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French police hunting for possible accomplices of an al-Qaeda-inspired gunman who went on a killing spree in March have ­arrested two people, police and judicial sources said.

The arrests yesterday, the first in the case since March, may throw new light on suspicions that Mohamed Merah did not act alone in the attacks, which left seven dead and terrified France. Merah was later killed in a shoot-out with police.

One of Merah’s brothers, Abdelkader, is already in custody on preliminary charges of complicity in the killings. Their oldest brother is among those who have suggested a third man may have played a role.

A man arrested yesterday was picked up in the city of Albi in southern France, and a woman – his former girlfriend – was arrested in Toulouse, the prosecutor’s office said. An official with the prosecutor’s office said the man is the key suspect.

The Sipa news agency said the man is suspected of helping the Merah brothers obtain the scooter used in the attacks.

Mohamed Merah told police during a stand-off before his death that he killed three paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi over a nine-day period in March.

Merah had travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan and was under loose surveillance by the country’s security services, which have since acknowledged lapses.

While authorities initially described him as a “lone-wolf” terrorist, lawyers for the victims’ families were sceptical.

“We know that he didn’t kill alone,” lawyer Patrick Klugman, who represents some victims’ families, said in a TV interview. “We want everyone who helped him, who hid him … brought before justice.”

Samia Maktouf, a lawyer for the father of one of the paratroopers, said she expects more arrests of suspected accomplices “in France and abroad”.