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'Gunman' calls FRANCE 24 hours before pre-dawn siege

Hours before French police laid siege to the home of Mohamed Merah early on Wednesday, a man claiming to be the serial shooter phoned FRANCE 24 to explain his motives for the killings. A prosecutor later confirmed the phone call was genuine.

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Mohamed Merah, accused of killing four people outside a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday, called FRANCE 24 in the early hours of Wednesday – a call France’s chief prosecutor Francois Molins later confirmed was genuine.

He rang the news room two hours before French police surrounded his home in the south-western city of Toulouse, starting a standoff that was to last 32 hours until he was killed when commandos raided his flat on Thursday morning.

Merah, who said he was affiliated to al Qaeda in France, also said he was the gunman who murdered three paratroopers in Toulouse and nearby Montauban in two separate incidents the previous week.

Speaking to FRANCE 24’s senior editor Ebba Kalondo for 11 minutes in “clear French”, he said that his actions were part of a “much larger campaign” and that the country could expect further attacks in Lyon, Marseille and Paris.

He told Kalondo he had carried out the attacks in protest against France’s decision to ban women from wearing the full Islamic veil and because of the country’s military presence in Afghanistan.

He said “the victims were chosen at random” and that anyone “bolstering the operation in Afghanistan” or “working for the Sarkozy machine” was a target.

Asked why he had killed four Jewish people – including three children – at a school in Toulouse on March 19, he said: “The Jews kill our brothers and sisters in Palestine.”

Kalondo explained that Merah, whom she said sounded in his early 20s and had a “slight accent”, gave graphic and precise information about the killings that would have been known only to the shooter and to police investigating the crime.

Details included the number of bullets fired and the fact that he had lost the magazine from one of his handguns at the site of the second shooting on March 15, in which two paratroopers were killed.

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