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Police Renew Contact with Toulouse Terrorist

Police re-establish contact with a convicted terrorist suspected of murdering 3 Jewish children, a rabbi, and 3 Muslim French soldiers.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 3/21/2012, 3:37 PM

Masked special unit French police on the scene in Toulouse
Masked special unit French police on the scene in Toulouse
Reuters

Police have managed to re-establish contact with a convicted terrorist suspected of murdering three Jewish children and a rabbi on Monday, and three French soldiers, all Muslims, last week. 

Throughout the morning, the suspected terrorist, 23-year-old Mohammed Merah, spoke with police surrounding his building. But Merah, who lives just a short distance from the Otzar HaTorah day school he is alleged to have attacked, cut off contact in the early afternoon.

The building in which Merah's apartment is located has been evacuated, as have all the surrounding buildings in the area.

When at first police attempted to arrest the suspect, he attacked and wounded three of the officers. Merah, also a Muslim, is believed to belong to the Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride) organization, a group recently outlawed for its support of terrorism. The group, formed two years ago, has participated in anti-Israel protests and demonstrations against a French law banning Muslim women from wearing the burka in public venues.

Merah has traveled to Afghanistan and is believed to have links to the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization as well. He was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to three years in prison in southern Afghanistan for "planting bombs," the BBC reported. He escaped the country in a mass breakout led by the Taliban in 2008, however, according to the prison director in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, Gulam Farooq.

The suspect reportedly confessed to police that he carried out the recent murders in response to French military actions, and as retaliation for Israeli operations in Gaza.

Three of Merah's relatives, including his brother, have also been arrested in connection with the murders. French media outlets reported Wednesday that police discovered dozens of grams of explosives in Abed el-Khader Merah's possession. 

Although police first brought his mother, an Algerian, to the scene in an attempt to persuade Merah to surrender, she refused to cooperate, insisting she "never had much influence" over him.