A DebkaFile report: “Mohammed Merah is dead. He was a new breed of Iron Man terrorist”.
The French-born al Qaeda killer, Mohammed Merah — who shocked the world by murdering three Jewish schoolchildren and their teacher in Toulouse by shots to the head, after killing three French paratroopers — was found dead after jumping out of a window still shooting Thursday, March 22. First, he injured three police officers searching his apartment, bursting out of the bathroom firing madly.
This 23-year old Muslim extremist made history by the callousness of his murders and by forcing French police and security forces to conduct the biggest and longest siege in their history against a lone armed terrorist.
Many mysteries surround the episode -both concerning the gunman and the methods used by French security to apprehend him. One applies to the official reporting of the incident and the many conflicting accounts, some of them coming from the French minister of interior Claude Guiant.
Another relates to the unnamed man who entered the killer’s apartment on a quiet Toulouse street some time Wednesday. Was he sent for some face-to-face bargaining with Merah on terms for ending the siege?
There were powerful explosions around the apartment over midnight Wednesday and sustained gunfire from various weapons just before the terrorist was officially reported to be dead. None were explained.
One reason for the dragging out the police assault on the apartment may have been that the occupant had not only barricaded himself with basic supplies of food, water, medicines and ammo, but also booby-trapped the entrance ready to strike down a large number of raiders while he remained unharmed.
The apartment may have been rigged as a fortified chamber for a long haul.
In that and other respects, he may fit the model of an Iron Man, a terrorist prototype and Salafi extremist who drives fast cars and motorbikes, enjoys the good life, is at ease with electronic gadgets and used a high tech video camera from a Formula One car to record his murderous rampage in high resolution for propaganda and posterity.
Youthful copycat admirers in jihadist circles will no doubt emulate the Merah style.
Another unanswered riddle is who bankrolled this high-end style and his operations?
One of the big questions facing the French president and security authorities is what took them so long – a day and a half – to raid the apartment? If their plan was to capture him alive to grill him for intelligence on al Qaeda networks, they failed.
Why did they not use stun grenades or a special gas to paralyze him in the initial stage or after the doors were breached? French counterterrorism units are adept in the use of a special gas designed over 40 years ago and were the first to use it.
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources recall that in November. 1979, when the Saudi royal family was unable to put down a revolt against the throne, they asked urgently for a French counterterrorism unit to break the siege the rebels had laid on the Kaaba mosque in Mecca, Islam’s most sacred shrine. The unit poured gas into the ancient underground passages and forced the rebels to surrender.
DEBKAfile reported Wednesday, March 21:
Questions are already being asked about how French intelligence and counter-terror agencies, which had held him and family members under surveillance for some time, failed to discover the deadly plans they were hatching against Jewish and Moslem targets.
Mohammed Merah said he had trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which countries he visited in 2010 and 2011. A Kandahar prison official identified him as an al Qaeda bomber who was imprisoned for three years and escaped in a mass Taliban jailbreak in 2008, only to be rearrested and sent back to France.
Toulouse police hunted him down to an address 2 kilometers from the Ozar Hatorah school where he committed his murders after identifying him as the motorcyclist in black who also killed two French paratroopers and wounded a third in neighboring Montauban last Thursday.
Merah fell under police suspicion after that attack but was not arrested. He was active in the extremist Islamic organization called Forsane Alizze which was only outlawed in February although it was long identified with al Qaeda.
The terrorist called French TV stations after the attacks and said he had avenged French participation in the Afghan war, the suffering of Gaza Palestinians and the Sarkozy government’s ban on the veil in public places for Muslim women. He had videotaped his murders to further propagate their impact.
The Jewish teacher, Yonathan Sandler, 30, his sons Arieh, 3 and Gavriel, 6 and the Ozar Hatorah principal’s daughter, Miriam Monstango, aged 8, whom he shot dead Monday at the Jewish school, were laid to rest at the Har Menuhot cemetery in Jerusalem Wednesday attended by masses of people and notables.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe flew to Israel with the victims and attended the funerals as a mark of French-Israeli solidarity in the face of he terrible murders. “Never doubt our determination to fight anti-Semitism in France which violates all our values and will not be tolerated,” he declared.
The dawn raid in Toulouse was accompanied by security police swoops on extremist Muslim hideouts across France.