Toulouse shooter's remains expected to arrive in Algeria
The remains of Mohamed Merah, the 23 year-old man responsible for killing seven people in southwestern France earlier this month, are expected to arrive in Algeria Thursday for burial by relatives.
AFP - The body of an Islamist gunman branded a "monster" after he boasted of killing seven people in southern France is due to arrive in Algeria on Thursday, a family member told AFP.
Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, was killed by police on March 22 after a lengthy stand-off at his Toulouse apartment.
A close relative, who asked not to be named, told AFP Merah's remains would arrive in Algiers at 1315 GMT on Thursday, on an Air Algeria flight.
The body "will be accompanied by the mother and a sister of the deceased," the relative said, adding the corpse would first be washed in France, according to Muslim custom, before being buried in the Medea region south of Algiers.
"I am coordinating the details of the funeral with the father, who is completely overwhelmed by the situation," the killer's uncle Djamel Aziri told AFP.
Algerian authorities, however, have yet to agree to Merah being buried in the north African country, said Abdellatif Mellouki, head of a Muslim faith council in southern France.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has said Merah was a "fanatic and a monster" who killed three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a trainee rabbi in attacks in and around Toulouse.
Merah's father, Mohamed Benalel Merah, insisted Wednesday he would not "shut up" after saying he wanted to sue France over the death of his son.
The comment, reported in an Algerian Arab-language daily newspaper, came after French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe reacted angrily to the threat of a legal challenge.
"If I were the father of such a monster, I would shut my mouth in shame," Juppe said.
In an interview to France 24 later Wednesday, Merah's father said: "If my son was really behind the killings, it was not good.
"If he has really committed these crimes and killed innocent people, he was wrong," he said, insisting: "If it was really him.
"If he was pushed to commit these acts by other people, it was wrong. He was blinded", by them, the father said.
When police surrounded Merah's Toulouse apartment last week, the gunman fought off an initial assault and then, in a conversation with a police negotiator, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
He said he shot dead three soldiers in two separate attacks in Toulouse and nearby Montauban on March 11 and 15, then last Monday opened fire at a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing a 30-year-old teacher, his sons aged five and four, and a seven-year-old girl.
The killer's father told AFP he had noticed a change in his son's behaviour the last time he returned to see his family in Algeria.
"He didn't appear to want to go out and stayed in his room to recite the Koran and read books. As soon as he'd hear the muezzin (calling for prayer), he would run to the mosque," he said.
"He was afraid my two other (younger) children could sneak into his room and had a lock fitted on the door."
On Sunday, authorities charged the gunman's brother, 29-year-old Abdelkader Merah, with complicity in the attacks, but he has denied any involvement.
A video apparently of the killings was sent to the Al-Jazeera news channel Tuesday, along with a letter in poorly written French claiming the attacks in the name of Al-Qaeda.
Al-Jazeera said it would not broadcast the footage.