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France 'cut surveillance' of Toulouse gunman
French intelligence services reduced their surveillance of Mohamed Merah in the months before the Islamist gunman went on a shooting spree in Toulouse, French media reported on Friday citing leaked documents.
French intelligence services curtailed supervision of Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah a few months before his shooting spree in Toulouse despite his known links to extremists, according to leaked documents.
The reports from France's DCRI domestic intelligence service, seen by AFP, show that Merah was under intense surveillance throughout 2011 but that agents decided to reduce monitoring.
They show that Merah, who had been under surveillance since 2006, was identified as a "privileged target" at the beginning of last year after returning from a trip to Afghanistan, where he was detained in November 2010.
Surveillance from March to July indicated he was in regular contact with "the radical Islamist movement in Toulouse", said he was showing "paranoid behaviour" and that he was receiving funds from extremists.
Merah travelled to Pakistan between August and October last year and met with DCRI agents upon his return.
Despite the previous evidence, the agency concluded in November that only "selective" further monitoring of Merah was required, saying the meeting "did not allow for a link to be made between Merah and an eventual jihadist network".
French intelligence services have been repeatedly criticised for failing to prevent Merah's attacks.
Merah, a self-described Al-Qaeda sympathiser, shot a rabbi, three Jewish schoolchildren and three French paratroopers in attacks in and around the southern city of Toulouse in March, before being shot dead in a police siege.
The first DCRI notes in January 2011, following Merah's return from a visit to Kandahar, described him as a "repeat offender" who was "frequenting the radical movement in Toulouse" with his brother Abdelkader and his sister Souad.
The DCRI described Merah, who had at least 15 previous criminal convictions, as "an individual with a heavy criminal past who is in the process of radicalising".
A March note indicated Merah had met with the leader of a group of extremists operating out of Toulouse, while in April he was described as showing "paranoid behaviour" and was said to have composed songs "glorifying the extermination of 'Western infidels'".
In June, the DCRI said Merah had been receiving funds from a known radical and in July he was described as being "in regular contact" with three local extremists. It also noted that he had no personal Internet connection or telephone.
And despite monitoring of Merah being reduced after the November meeting, a December DCRI note continued to describe him as being in "privileged contact" with local extremist leaders.
President Francois Hollande has vowed to beef up its anti-terrorism laws in the wake of the killings.
Plans presented to cabinet earlier this month would allow authorities to prosecute suspects for terrorism-related crimes committed outside the country, allowing France to target extremists who attend foreign training camps.
Those attending training camps abroad could face up to 10 years in prison for "association with a terrorist enterprise".
The reforms, which the government hopes will be adopted by the end of the year, will also allow authorities to monitor the telecommunications data of the creators of extremist websites.
French authorities have increasingly warned of the threat of attacks from home-grown extremists and earlier this month charged seven suspects with attempted murder and terrorism-related offenses after a crackdown on a cell of Islamic radicals.