Stand-off continues as more details about suspect emerge


It has now been around 17 hours since police surrounded a building in Toulouse in order to take a man, suspected of killing up to seven people, into custody.

Yet despite earlier reports, Mohammed Merah has not been arrested and remains holed up inside. Police are believed to be preparing to storm the building.

Merah, 23, is wanted for the murders of four people at close range outside a Jewish school on Monday. He is also suspected to be behind the killings of three paratroopers, whose funerals, like those of the Jewish victims, were held today.

The Frenchman, who is of Algerian descent, is a self-proclaimed jihadist with al-Qaida links, and it is believed he could be the same man who escaped from a Kandahar prison four years ago after being convicted on a bomb plot.

He has claimed he is acting alone and is seeking revenge, both for the deaths of Palestinians and because of France's foreign military commitments. AFP reported that he had tried unsuccessfully to join the French army in 2008 and again in 2009.

Merah, who police believe filmed the attack at the Ozer Hatorah school, was apparently planning a fourth attack when police caught up with him.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said: "He had foreseen other killings, notably he foresaw another attack this morning, targeting a soldier".

Mr Molins said Merah had displayed no regret for his actions, but boasted of "bringing France to its knees".

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who suspended his re-election campaign following the tragedy, vowed today that terrorism would not be able to "fracture our national community".

An Interior Ministry official told AP that Merah had been under surveillance for several years regarding his "fundamentalist" Islamic views. His brother is also said to have terrorist connections.

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