"It's a waiting game now,” say French counter-terrorism police in Toulouse, but at present it is not clear whether 23-year-old Mohammed Merah is still alive.Overnight, a single shot was heard from the apartment in which the young terrorist is holed up in Toulouse, and there has been no contact from the killer since that time.
As daybreak dawned, special ops units were continuing their watch around the apartment in which they had trapped the terrorist accused of killing four Jews and three French Muslim soldiers over the past 10 days. Police detonated several explosions overnight, one flattening the main door to the building, in order to provoke the killer into responding -- but silence greeted the move. A short time later, two shots were heard, but the source of the gunfire was not clear.
Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, told a Paris journalist at France 24 TV News by phone that he carried out the murders on the orders of Al Qaeda.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters early Thursday morning that at this point, he is not sure that Merah wants to stay alive.
Gueant said he believes Merah “wants to die with a gun in his hand.” A source close to the special ops unit on the scene has told French media that Merah “does not want to go, and seems very determined.”
Although the terrorist had told negotiators twice yesterday that he planned to surrender, he did not fulfill that pledge in either case. Nor has he shown any remorse for the seven killings he said he had committed -- rather, simply regret he had not had time to commit more. He is equipped with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an Uzi submachine gun and a number of hand grenades.
Authorities have shut off the gas supply to the building, fearing further explosions following those that occurred overnight.
The bodies of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, 30, his two young sons, ages 3 and 6, and the 8-year-old daughter of the principal of the Otzar HaTorah Jewish day school were laid to rest in Jerusalem Wednesday.
Merah said during his call to France 24 TV that he killed the French paratroopers to protest the French law prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the full-length, burka in public venues -- a garment that completely hides one's identity from view -- and to protest France's participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan. The murders Monday at the Otzar HaTorah Jewish day school in Toulouse were carried out “to avenge Palestinian children's deaths,” he said. “He was extremely calm,” said the journalist. “Absolutely impeccable. Not at all mentally unstable.... He had filmed all of these attacks, and had planned to put them on the Internet.”
Apparently another attack was planned for today, according to the BBC.