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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019

Police set off explosions as Toulouse siege enters second day

Mohamed Merah is intent on dying “with weapons in his hands”, a minister says – but has he killed himself already?

A screengrab from France 2 TV shows Mohamed Merah, the suspected gunman involved in the siege in Toulouse.
A screengrab from France 2 TV shows Mohamed Merah, the suspected gunman involved in the siege in Toulouse.
Image: AP Photo/France 2

POLICE IN TOULOUSE have begin setting off deliberate explosions in the area surrounding the building in which a man, suspected of killing seven people in three separate shootings in a fortnight, is holed up.

The explosions – some of which blew off the shutters on the apartment block in which he remains – are an attempt to pressure Mohamed Merah, the 24-year-old suspected gunman, to hand himself over to police.

It is this morning suspected that the gunman – who has been held up in the apartment since the early hours of yesterday morning – may perhaps already have committed suicide.

AP reports that a small number of gunshots were heard in the vicinity of the apartment building overnight, and that their source was not clear.

The shots came as interior minister Claude Gueant told the media that Merah was apparently intent on dying “with weapons in his hands”.

“We hope that he is still alive,” Gueant said, stressing that authorities’ priority is to capture him alive, though admitting it was “rather strange” that Merah had not reacted to any of the deliberate detonations.

Police were using their advantages — numbers, firepower and psychological pressure — in hopes of wearing down Merah, who has had no water, electricity, gas or most likely sleep since the early hours of Wednesday.

Authorities said the gunman, who is of Algerian descent, had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan where he claimed to have received training from Al-Qaeda. He is thought to have acted alone in the various attacks.

On Monday, three children and a teacher were shot dead outside a Jewish school in the northeast of the city. The previous week, three soldiers – two of them of African descent, with the other from the Caribbean – were killed in two separate shooting incidents.

Merah, who is reputed to have claimed responsibility for the attacks, said his motivation was to “avenge Palestinian children”.

Additional reporting by Sarah DiLorenzo, Associated Press

Earlier: French suspect wants to surrender under cover of darkness

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Gavan Reilly

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