Paulo Hora III
LOKAL TVīs Correspondent in Tijuca - Rio, Brazil
21 Years Old
Journalism student at Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Urca
E-MAIL: contato@tvlokal.com.br



Bloody end to French siege



French police burst into the apartment of a suspected al Qaeda-trained militant accused of killing seven people, prompting a shootout that ended with Mohammed Merah, gun in hand, jumping out a window to his death, authorities said Thursday.

Two police officers were injured in the raid, which came after a siege of the apartment lasting more than 31 hours, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

Merah, 23, was wanted in the killings of three French paratroopers and of three students and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, in a string of shootings that began on March 11.

He originally said he would surrender to police, Gueant said, but later vowed that he would resist and kill anyone who tried to take him into custody.

He emerged from a bathroom as police burst in Thursday morning, Gueant said, and launched a barrage of gunfire before jumping from the window, still shooting.

Gueant had said earlier police wanted to capture him alive, saying the priority was "to hand him over to the authorities."

Merah had said he wanted to "die with weapons in his hands," Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said overnight.

After Merah's death, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said everything had been done to bring him to justice alive.

But, he said, security forces could not be exposed to more danger as they sought to arrest him, since enough lives had already been lost.

Sarkozy's political rival, Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, congratulated police and said France had always shown that it "knows how to stand up against its worst enemies without losing any of its values."

Police had surrounded Merah's house at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, having tracked him down through computer sleuthing and clues linked to his motorcycle, authorities said. As police first attempted to seize him early Wednesday morning, Merah shot and wounded two officers, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said. Merah had told French police that he had planned to attack more soldiers and police Wednesday, and that he was acting alone, Molins said. Molins said Merah had trained with al Qaeda in Pakistan's Waziristan region, bordering Afghanistan, and had spent time in Afghanistan. He was sent back to France after Afghan police picked him up at a traffic stop and alerted international forces to his presence, Molins said. Christian Etelin, a lawyer who had represented Merah in an earlier incident involving a traffic accident, also said Merah went to Afghanistan two years ago.

After the suspect's death, Etelin said that Merah was psychologically damaged. "He was completely cut off from reality," Etelin said on CNN affiliate BFM TV. Ebba Kalondo, the senior news editor of the television network France 24, told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" earlier that the suspect had called her about two hours before police surrounded his home and laid out details of the killings that only police would have known -- "very, very specific information" such as the number of shots fired and the shell casings left behind. "He seemed to be very aware that a massive manhunt was under way for him," Kalondo said. "He said he wasn't scared, and that neither capture nor death scared him at all."

SOURCE: CNN

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