REPORTING FROM PARIS --The slaying of three children and a teacher Monday outside a Jewish high school seemed to echo recent attacks on soldiers of North African or Caribbean descent in the same southwestern region of France, raising fears and suspicion of a serial attack on French minorities.
Three members of a French parachute regiment were gunned down last week in the southwest city of Montauban near Toulouse as they stood in uniform by an ATM. Two of the soldiers died, while the third was left in critical condition.
That drive-by shooting came less than a week after a similar attack in Toulouse, in which a French staff sergeant was shot to death outside a gymnasium by a gunman who sped off on a scooter.
Though police have not confirmed any links with the school shooting, also carried out in Toulouse, the attacks have some clear similarities: All three attacks used the same kind of weapon, an 11.43-millimeter pistol. All involved a gunman who sped away on a motorbike. And all killed French minorities.
The Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press, each citing an unnamed police source, reported that the same handgun was used in the attacks on soldiers and the Jewish school. French officials declined to comment on those reports when asked by The Times, saying the assaults remain under investigation.
In the wake of the Monday attack, police tightened security around Jewish schools and colleges on the orders of the Interior Ministry, paying special attention to those in the south.
Anti-Semitism has lingered in France, which has the biggest Jewish community in Europe, numbering roughly 550,000. The Monday shooting was the worst attack on French Jews since six people died in the 1982 grenade attack and shooting at the Goldenberg restaurant and deli in Paris.
-- Kim Willsher in Paris; Emily Alpert in Los Angeles contributed.
Photo: Police officers stand guard in front of a Jewish kindergarten Monday in Paris after the French interior minister ordered security to be tightened around all French Jewish schools. Credit: Kenzo Tribouillard / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images