Wednesday, March 21, 2012

French police launch assault on besieged Muslim gunman Mohammed Merah who claims he's a member of al Qaeda

An undated and non-datelined frame grab from a video broadcast March 21, 2012 by French national television station France 2, who they claim to show Mohamed Merah, the suspect in the killing of 3 paratroopers, 3 children and a rabbi in recent days in France. About 300 police, some in body armour, have cordoned off a five-storey building in Toulouse where the 24-year-old Muslim shooter, identified as Mohamed Merad, is holed up. (Reuters Pictures)
TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) – French police launched an assault late on Wednesday on an apartment where a gunman suspected of killing seven people in the name of al Qaeda was holed up, officials said.

Three loud blasts were heard at the site in the southwest city of Toulouse just before midnight, which blew open the door of the apartment where the gunman had been holed up since 3 a.m. (0200 GMT), a police source said.

“I confirm that the assault has started,” a police source told Reuters. The deputy mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Pierre Havrin, confirmed that negotiations had ended and the assault had begun.

Police had been trying to get 24-year-old Mohamed Merah to turn himself over after he fired through the door at them while they tried to storm his apartment in the suburbs of Toulouse in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The 24-year-old Muslim shooter has been bottled up by France’s elite RAID commandos since 3 a.m. (0200 GMT) inside a five-storey building in a suburb of Toulouse – a drama that has gripped France a few weeks ahead of a close-fought presidential election.