French police in standoff with suspect in Jewish school slayings

Two French police officers were shot and injured Wednesday in a standoff with a man claiming to be a member of Al Qaeda and suspected of killing seven people, including a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school

REPORTING FROM PARIS -- Two French police officers were shot and injured Wednesday in a standoff with a man claiming to be a member of Al Qaeda and suspected of killing seven people, including a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school.

Officials said the standoff at an apartment in Toulouse began at 3 a.m. local time when police from an elite armed unit surrounded a building in a residential area of the city less than 48 hours after a gunman attacked the school, killing four people.

An explosion was heard from the apartment building early Wednesday morning.

PHOTOS: Shooting at French school

French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said officers were under instructions to take the 24-year-old suspect alive. The man is of French nationality and Algerian origin, officials said. Multiple news agencies identified him as Mohammed Merah.

The suspect's Algerian mother was reported to be at the scene helping with negotiations, and his brother has been taken into police custody. The man has reportedly surrendered a .45 Colt pistol, but is believed to have an Uzi machine gun and a Kalashnikov assault rifle still in his possession.

The injuries of the two police officers wounded in the ongoing standoff were not considered life-threatening, officials said.

In addition to the attack on the school, the suspect is believed to be linked to the deaths of three French paratroopers of North African origin in two separate shootings in and around Toulouse in the last 10 days.

Guéant said the suspect claimed to be a member of Al Qaeda and to have killed the students at the Jewish school Monday to "avenge" the deaths of Palestinian children, and the three soldiers because of France's military intervention in Afghanistan.

The standoff was ongoing as funerals for the victims of the school shootings were underway in Jerusalem.

Those killed at the Ozar-Hatorah school were Jonathan Sandler, 31, a rabbi and teacher; his two sons, Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4; and Miriam Monsonego, 7, the daughter of the school's headmaster. The gunman had chased the little girl into the school campus and executed her with a shot to the head, officials said.

Investigators said the victims were shot at such close range that there were gunshot burns on their skin.

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-- Kim Willsher

Photo: Ambulances and police vehicles are parked in a Toulouse street Wednesday, as authorities negotiate with a holed-up suspect in this week's shooting attack at a Jewish school. Credit: Remy de la Mauviniere / Associated Press

 
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