Standoff in Toulouse: Mohamed Merah is Dead
This comes after a long, continuous and loud blast of what sounded like automatic weapons. Police now say Merah fired at them and they fired back in self-defense. Apparently, he started shooting at them while in the bathroom and then jumped out the bathroom window. There are even reports he may have died from the fall rather than the gunfight. An autopsy will be performed. Added: He didn't die from the fall but a shot to the head as he jumped from the window. [More....]
"The examination of the body shows that he was shot in the head and that he was wearing a bullet-proof vest," Mr Molins said, "and had a gun covered by a pair of jeans."French Interior Minister Claude Gueant gave a statement:
"Material to make Molotov cocktails were found on his balcony....Mr Molins said a Colt 45 handgun was found next to his body, and he estimated that Merah had fired 30 bullets as the commandos broke in.
He said the police decided to storm the building after the gunman had threatened to kill police and refused to surrender late last night. Describing the raid itself, he saidEarlier: Sounds like the raid is coming to an end. Watching the live feed, the scene resembles a search and rescue mission that has turned into a recovery mission. There are no visible guns on the police (the RAID guys are reportedly inside Merah's apartment) and rescue workers are milling around. People are walking and riding their bikes right through the area on their way to work. There are a lot of firetrucks, firemen, and vans. The atmosphere is too calm to indicate any kind of crisis is ongoing. They just brought something out on a stretcher and loaded it into a van but it didn't look like a body. What else do you put on a stretcher? Explosives? Now the firefighters seem to be leaving.
"We sent in special cameras to be able to see where he was but we could not locate him. It was when we were able to locate him in the bathroom that he came out shooting madly at everybody." The police had never seen anything like this kind of violence and the RAID police had to protect themselves. Merah jumped out of the window and continued to shoot. He was found dead on the ground.
Update 2:00 a.m. MT (Thursday): Sounds like Merah may have killed himself during the night. Interior Minister Claude Gueant says he is surprised they haven't heard from him despite launching regular grenades with blinding lights and flashbangs.
"We have a priority, it can go, to deliver him to justice, and then take him alive: we hope he is still alive," said Claude Gueant to RTL. "We heard two shots you do not know what it is," he added.
This is reminding me of the standoff on a Miami houseboat with Andrew Cunanan years ago. Cunanan was wanted for killing designer Gianni Versace and several others. Even though it only lasted four hours, it was very intense, the whole nation was watching, and it ended when Cunanan killed himself (althouh it took police another several hours to announce they had found a body -- they claimed to have missed it the first look-through-- and even more hours to announce it the body was that of Cunanan. )
The standoff began about 4 p.m. local time, when police special forces--complete with helicopters, boats and dogs--descended en masse on the shuttered houseboat, 41 blocks north of Versace's mansion. During the siege, police fired eight rounds of tear gas or "flash-bang" grenades into the boat. They shouted "Come out! Come out!" Eventually, eight officers--huddled behind shields-- stormed the boat.
At 8:03 p.m., before police entered the houseboat, some witnesses heard a muffled shot from inside. That might have been the precise moment that the man believed to be Cunanan took his life and ended a dragnet that galvanized the nation. In the immediate aftermath of the assault and for nearly three more hours, police indicated that no one had been found inside the house.
At least the French are trying to get Merah alive. I remember with Cunanan, right after he was found dead, some law enforcement agent (or maybe it was the Mayor of Miami) said "Justice has been done." Justice is not done when a suspect kills himself, even one who's confessed. Justice is done when you bring someone to answer charges in a court of law and they are convicted after a fair trial.
Update: 1:00 a.m. MT (Thursday): Morning in France, and things are still at a stalemate:
7.30. "He is very determined" Mohamed Merah has closed all negotiations since last night. It "seems a very closed posture. He does not want to go. And he seems very determined," said a source close to the investigation told AFP. The gunman had hinted that he would go early in the afternoon and late evening on Wednesday. Since then and throughout the night, Raid initiated a psychological war of attrition before the young man's refusal to surrender.
Update: 12:08 am MT (Thurs): Things seem to be accelerating:
6:40. Pressure is mounting Two shots in less than five minutes apart were heard by journalists. The war of attrition continues.
Update: 7:00 MT: New explosions. Here's how one illuminated the buildings in the area. Authorities are clearly trying to take Merah alive. I wonder if he'll decide to go out in a blaze of glory rather than just shoot himself or surrender.
There are some reports of exchanged gunfire and other reports of police use of stun grenades. The standoff is now in its 20th hour. Seems like a long time, until I remember Ruby Ridge (12 days) and Waco (51 days.)
Bump and Update: France2 has posted the first photos of Toulouse shooting suspect Mohammed Merah. There are reports police have launched an assault on the building, explosions were heard, but nothing since. Either it's over and he's dead or they are trying to smoke him out. Police now say the assault hasn't started yet, the explosions were designed to intimidate Merah who "seems to have changed his mind and does not want to surrender." I wonder if Merah has a TV and is following developments, so police are just releasing statements they want him to hear. I also wonder why they didn't cut the power off to the building. It really seems unlikely he'll come out alive.
The standoff in Toulouse continues, where police have surrounded the apartment building of 23 year old Mohamed Merah the motorbiking suspect who police believe is responsible for the killing of three students and a teacher at the Jewish School and three soldiers. Here's a photo of the apartment building.
The latest is that he has told police he will surrender this evening.
Police surrounded his apartment around 3 am and began negotiating with him through the front door. He told police he acted alone and that he was upset at the treatment of Palestinian children and actions of the French army.
French officials say he claimed to have trained with al Qaeda and has ties to jihadist and salafist groups.
There were reports he was affiliated with a group named Forsame Alizza, which the French Government ordered to disband in January. The group is independent and not part of al Qaeda, although it sympathizes with al Qaeda's world view. One of the group's primary concerns is fighting French Islamophobia.
He is a french national. His mother is Algerian. His mother was brought to the scene but did not attempt to get him to surrender as she said he wouldn't listen to her. His brother has been arrested.
The police say he intended to kill again this morning. He was identified through the IP address of his brother, from the investigation of the shooter of the off duty soldier 10 days ago.
Oddly, even though the suspect was armed and allegedly shot at police, wounding two or three, they didn't evacuate the other residents for a few hours, until after negotiations had broken down. Merah reportedly has not made any demands.
Reports that he escaped from a prison in Kandahar have turned out to be false, according to the official Kandahar Media Office's twitter feed. His lawyer from an earlier traffic case says he showed no signs of violence and did not seem fanatical when he represented him, but that was before he went to Afghanistan. His friends say he was not militant and was at a nightclub just days ago.
Forsane Alizza was a small group with an active web presence with lots of videos. The website is now down, but its Twitter feed is still up. It's last tweet was on March 12. Interesting tidbit: One of the people it follows on Twitter is AnonymouSabu, aka the FBI. It doesn't seem like Sabu followed them back.
Here's a screengrab of Forsane Alizza's website I took last night before it went down. This is their Twitter graphic. No matter what page you clicked on, this video screen came up. This is what appeared on the website after it went down.
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