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      Hollande Pays Tribute to Toulouse Terror Victims

      French President pays tribute to the seven victims of terrorist Mohamed Merah, says he remains committed to the fight against terrorism.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 3/18/2013, 4:46 AM

      French President Francois Hollande during a memorial ceremony for the Toulouse victims
      French President Francois Hollande during a memorial ceremony for the Toulouse victims
      Reuters

      French President Francois Hollande on Sunday paid tribute to the seven people who last year fell victim to terrorist Mohamed Merah, saying he remains committed to the fight against terrorism.

      "The fight against terrorism is global... and allows for no easing off, no weakness and no negligence," Hollande told a crowd of around 1,500 people that had gathered in the southwestern city of Toulouse for the service, AFP reported.

      "Democracy is always more powerful than fanaticism," Hollande said.

      A self-described Al-Qaeda sympathizer, 23-year-old Merah murdered Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Aryeh and Gavriel and Miriam Monsonego at the Otzar HaTorah school in Toulouse. Before that, he murdered three Muslim paratroopers of North African heritage. Merah was ultimately killed when he tried to flee a raid on his apartment.

      Merah, a French citizen with Algerian roots and who in 2011 received military training in Pakistan, said he wanted to avenge the deaths of Palestinian Authority Arab children and punish France for sending troops to Afghanistan.

      French police doubt that Merah could have acted alone, but the only person charged with helping him so far is his brother Abdelkader who has denied the charges, AFP reported.

      Last month, however, police arrested two men in connection with Merah's killing spree, and in early December a 38-year-old man and his girlfriend were arrested on suspicion of links to the attacks but both were later released without charge.

      France has seen a surge of 45% in the number of anti-Semitic incidents over the past year, since the Toulouse attacks.

      Last week President Shimon Peres attended memorial events for the victims of the Otzar HaTorah massacre. He also met with the heads of the Jewish community of France and with a delegation of Imams including the heads of the Egyptian, African, Moroccan and Senegalese communities and heads of central mosques.