President Sarkozy stands by soldiers carrying a coffin during a ceremony to pay homage to the three soldiers. AP Photo/Jacques Brinon/PA

Girlfriend of murdered French soldier to wed posthumously

Sarkozy’s office has indicated approval for the pregnant woman’s appeal to marry her late partner.

THE PREGNANT girlfriend of a French soldier killed in a dramatic gun rampage will wed her partner posthumously, a family lawyer said today.

Paratrooper Abel Chennouf was shot dead earlier this month at a cash machine in southern France, one of seven killings blamed on 24-year-old Islamist fanatic Mohamed Merah.

Lawyer Gilbert Collard said that Chennouf’s pregnant girlfriend, 21-year-old Caroline Monet, is applying for permission to get married to her late partner at an official ceremony in a few weeks’ time.

He said he has already received approval from the President Sarkozy’s office for the ceremony.

“There won’t be any problems,” Collard said, adding that he hopes the wedding will “let the child have a father.”

Under French law, posthumous marriages can be permitted in cases where a fiancé dies before the wedding, though the ceremonies are very unusual. The law states that such weddings can only be approved by the French president “in grave circumstances.”

“I’ve already had it done twice, for policemen’s girlfriends,” Collard told the AP. “It’s a really moving ceremony, with an empty chair representing the dead spouse.”


Earlier today, French authorities said they had released the mother of the man blamed for the shootings, but they continue to hold his brother. Mohamed Merah was shot dead by police after a lengthy siege outside his apartment in Toulouse.

Police are investigating whether he had any assistance in the attacks he carried out in which seven people – three soldiers, a teacher and three Jewish children – were killed. Merah claimed allegiance to al-Qaida and barricaded himself into the apartment when police turned up to question him about the latest fatal attack.

At one point he claimed to have carried out the attacks to “avenge Palestinian children”.

Prosecutors have indicated that his brother Abdelkader Merah may face charges over the attacks and he remains in custody.

- Additional reporting by the AP

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