Toulouse gunman Merah's brother charged as accomplice

By Jennifer Lipman, March 26, 2012
Mohammed Merah

Mohammed Merah

The brother of the gunman who shot and killed four people at a Jewish school a week ago has been charged as an accomplice.

Abdelkader Merah's younger brother Mohammed died on Thursday after a 32 hour stand-off with police in an apartment in Toulouse. The 23-year-old admitted to the murders of the four at the Ozer Hatorah school as well as the killings of three paratroopers earlier in the month. He claimed to have links with al-Qaida and was a follow of Salafi Islam.

Abdelkader, 29, is now being investigated for his role in the slaughter, although it is not thought the brothers were part of a wider terrorist network. He has denied complicity but a spokesman for the French prosecutor's office said: "Police inquiries have produced serious and matching pointers that suggest his participation as accomplice in crimes relating to a terrorist enterprise is plausible."

He is also said to have expressed pride in his brother's actions. The gunman's mother and Abdelkader's girlfriend were also arrested but have now been released without charge.

In an apparent retreat from his stance prior to the Toulouse murders, President Nicolas Sarkozy has softened his rhetoric on immigration.

Before Merah was identified as the killer, there was speculation in France that the attacks were the work of a far-right extremist, and critics accused Mr Sarkozy of stoking such sentiment with his tough anti-immigration stance throughout the presidential race.

But Mr Sarkozy told France Info radio that it was wrong to blame the tragedy in Toulouse on lax immigration rules. He pointed out that Merah, although of Algerian descent, was born in France.

The remarks distance him from Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party of France, who said last week that it was time "to fight this war against these politico-religious fundamentalists".

Last updated: 11:34am, March 26 2012