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France

Gunman at school shooting linked to spate of murders

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-03-21

Four people, including three children, have been killed after a man opened fire outside a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse Monday. Police say the bullets came from the same gun that was used last week in the murder of three soldiers.

A gunman opened fire Monday morning outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in south-western France, killing four people.

A manhunt around the city and online

City Prosecutor Michel Valet said a 30-year-old man, his two sons, aged three and six, and another child aged ten who was the daughter of the school principal, were killed. A 17-year-old was also seriously injured.

Valet told reporters the gunman "shot at everything he could see, children and adults, and some children were chased into the school" before he fled the scene on a black scooter.

Relatives named the adult killed as Jonathan Sandler, a Franco-Israeli from Jerusalem who "left last September for a two-year mission to teach Jewish subjects in Toulouse", according to AFP.

“National tragedy”

Visiting the Ozar Hatorah school, French President Nicolas Sarkozy described the shooting as a "national tragedy" and vowed to find the killer.

"Barbarity, savagery, cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win,'' Sarkozy said. "We will find him.''

The president also announced a minute of silence in all French schools for Tuesday and said the state would throw its entire weight behind the investigation.

FRANCE 24 correspondent Chris Bockman reported from Toulouse that the city was in “lockdown” as police searched for the gunman.

"But this is a medieval city with narrow winding roads, where it is easy for a scooter to outrun a police car,” he added.

Link to killings of French soldiers

On Monday afternoon, judicial sources confirmed that the bullets fired at the school had been fired from the same weapon used in last week’s deadly shootings in Montauban and Toulouse.

The shooting on March 15 in nearby Montauban saw two soldiers killed by a gunman riding a scooter.

The soldiers, of the 17th Parachute Engineering Regiment recently returned from operations in Afghanistan, were killed outside their barracks.

Four days before, a soldier from another airborne regiment was killed in Toulouse.

“All the soldiers who were killed were from ethnic minorities,” said Bockman. “So this is looking like a series of racist killings.”

Sarkozy had earlier said, "We are struck by the similarities between the modus operandi of today's drama and those last week."

It also emerged late Monday that the same scooter has been used in all three attacks.

Toulouse shootings sent shockwaves all the way to Israel

The French government on Monday called for heightened security at Jewish schools in France, while French soldiers have already been banned from wearing uniform outside their bases.

Meanwhile, according to French daily Le Monde, anti-terrorist prosecutors have taken over the investigations into both the school and soldiers' shootings.

'A despicable murder of Jews'

Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande, who will be running against Sarkozy in the forthcoming presidential election, said on Monday that he was “suspending” his campaign and visiting Toulouse to show "solidarity" with the French Jewish community.

France's Grand Rabbi stated that he was "horrified" and "stunned" by the attack and was travelling to Toulouse.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the attack as "a despicable murder of Jews, including small children."

"It is too early to determine exactly what the background to the murderous act was, but we certainly cannot rule out the option that it was motivated by violent and murderous anti-Semitism," he said.

 

Date created : 2012-03-19

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