Shootings in Toulouse and Montauban: What we know

Crime scene investigators

Hunt for French killer

France has seen an unprecedented security clampdown after a lone gunman killed seven people, including three children, in three separate attacks in the south-west of the country.

Police tracked down the main suspect after investigating the movements of a stolen scooter used by the killer to make his escape following shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban.

Yamaha T-MAX scooter

6 March: Scooter stolen

A Yamaha T-Max scooter that proves key to tracking down Mohammad Merah, the main suspect in the targeted killings, is stolen.

Police say Merah or an associate later contacted a garage to find out how to switch off the stolen bike's GPS tracker device.

After the second attack, Merah had the black bike resprayed white. Suspicious garage staff contacted the police.

Imad Ibn-Ziaten

11 March: Gunman strikes

French soldier Imad Ibn-Ziaten is lured to a meeting in Toulouse after advertising his motorbike for sale.

The suspect apparently uses his brother's email address to arrange a meeting with Sgt Ibn-Ziaten. The paratrooper, who is not in uniform, is shot dead at close range.

Police say the weapons used to kill the soldier were the same as those employed in the subsequent attacks in Montauban and Toulouse.

Abel Chennouf and Mohamed Legouade

15 March: Double killing

Four days later, the gunman strikes again using the same weapons and riding the stolen scooter.

The assassin targets paratroopers in the nearby garrison town of Montauban. Abel Chennouf (left) and Mohamed Legouade are killed as they wait by a cash machine. A third soldier is critically injured.

Police say the killer is a meticulous operator. The clip for the gun used in all three attacks has no fingerprints or DNA on it.

Police outside Jewish school

19 March: Jewish children killed

Another four days pass before the killer targets a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Arriving on a white scooter, the killer guns down Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons Gabriel (aged four) and Arieh (five), and seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego at close range.

Reports suggest the killer wore a video camera, apparently to record his actions. A crash helmet and visor hid his identity.

Apartment block

21 March: Suspect cornered

An email address used by the suspected killer leads the police to this apartment block in Toulouse.

A raid on the apartment on the first floor is launched in the early hours of the morning. Police officers who knock on the door of an apartment are fired on - but not seriously hurt.

The heavily armed gunman gives up one of his guns in exchange for a mobile phone to speak to police. Residents in the apartment block are evacuated from the area.

Apartment block

22 March: Suspect dead

The siege ends in dramatic fashion with a gun battle between Merah and special police units who stormed the apartment after a 32-hour standoff.

Merah was hiding in his bathroom when the police entered the apartment. When a video probe was sent into the bathroom he emerged firing several guns at once.

In the end, Merah jumped from a window with a gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground.

A gunman suspected of carrying out three attacks that left seven people dead and two wounded in south-western France has been shot dead by police after a siege at his flat.

Mohammed Merah, 23, a French citizen of Algerian extraction, is said to have told police he wanted to avenge Palestinian children, and attack the French army because of its foreign interventions.

Each shooting was apparently carried out by a single gunman on a scooter, using the same gun, striking in daylight.

The attacks took place in Toulouse and the town of Montauban, 45km (30 miles) away.

Soldiers were targeted in the first two shootings, but the third took place at a Jewish school, where children were shot along with a teacher.

Cyber trail

The same pistol, thought to be a Colt 45, was used in all three shootings.

A photo of victim Abel Chennouf and his pregnant companion, placed at the scene of his murder in Montauban, 17 March  Murder victim Abel Chennouf (left) was due to become a father with his partner (right)

It is reported that Mohammed Merah threw out a Colt 45 during negotiations with police at the flat, hours into the siege which began early on 21 March.

A Yamaha T-Max 500cc scooter stolen in the Toulouse area on 6 March was used in at least one attack.

When the suspect contacted a dealership in Toulouse to ask for advice on how to remove the scooter's GPS tracking device, the owner, Christian Dellacherie, grew suspicious and notified police.

Another strong clue to the gunman's identity appears to have been an email account used to contact the first victim.

At around 16:00 (15:00 GMT) on Sunday 11 March, Imad Ibn-Ziaten, a 30-year-old staff sergeant in the 1st Airborne Transportation Regiment, was shot dead behind the Chateau de l'Hers school in a quiet district of Toulouse.

Sgt Ibn-Ziaten had posted a small ad on a website to sell a Suzuki Bandit motorcycle, and the suspected gunman had arranged a meeting with him to see it.

The sergeant had identified himself as a soldier in the ad, posted online on 24 February.

He apparently received a phone call about the motorcycle just minutes before the attack, according to local newspaper La Depeche.

Sgt Ibn-Ziaten was found shot in the head, his motorcycle beside him.

French police are said to have traced communications over the small ad to an email account used by the suspect's family.

'Tattoo'

In the second attack, in Montauban on 15 March, surveillance cameras picked up a man in dark clothing wearing a black helmet and riding a powerful scooter.

They also showed him using side-streets, suggesting he knew the town well.

Trail of clues

A file image of a man holding a Colt .45 pistol
  • A .45 pistol was used in all three shootings and one was reportedly discarded during the flat siege
  • The same stolen Yamaha scooter is said to have been used in the attacks, with an attempt apparently made to have it repainted
  • An online exchange with the first victim over a small ad was reportedly traced to an email account used by Mohammed Merah's family

The CCTV footage available to investigators is said to include footage of the actual shooting, taken by the camera in the cash machine being used by the three soldiers as the gunman attacked.

Two members of the 17th Airborne Combat Engineering Regiment, Corporal Abel Chennouf, 24, and Private Mohamed Legouad, 26, were killed. Both, like Sgt Ibn-Ziaten, were of North African origin.

A third paratrooper, 28-year-old Corporal Loic Liber from the French overseas region of Guadeloupe, was left in a coma.

There were numerous witnesses to the attack in Montauban, which occurred at around 14:00 outside a small shopping centre.

Before opening fire on the three unarmed, uniformed servicemen, the gunman reportedly moved aside an elderly woman, who was apparently also standing in line at the cash machine.

The killer was described as a small man who acted calmly, stopping to change the magazine of his pistol.

Witnesses described how he had turned over one of the wounded men who was trying to crawl away, and fired three more shots into him.

He was someone obviously used to handling a gun, a judicial source told AFP.

One witness, who described the killer as "of average height and quite fat", told French broadcaster RTL his helmet visor had been raised and she had seen his eyes and a tattoo or scar on his face.

In the same account, there was no indication of the killer's race.

'Everything he could see'

On 19 March, a gunman on a moped attacked the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse.

He killed Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old rabbi and teacher of religion, and his two sons Gabriel and Arieh, aged four and five.

Timeline of attacks

  • Late February: First victim, Imad Ibn-Ziaten, posts small ad online hoping to sell a motorbike
  • 6 March: Scooter stolen in the Toulouse area, to be used by gunman
  • 11 March: Imad Ibn-Ziaten shot dead in Toulouse while waiting to see man about selling his motorbike
  • 15 March: Two paratroopers shot dead and a third seriously injured while waiting at a cash machine in Montauban
  • 19 March: Three children and a teacher shot dead, and a youth injured, at a Jewish school in Toulouse
  • 22 March: Suspected gunman Mohammed Merah Merah shot dead after armed siege at his flat in Toulouse

The fourth victim was Myriam Monsonego, seven, daughter of the head teacher, who was reportedly grabbed by the hair and shot in the head.

A boy of 17 was also injured.

After opening fire with a 9mm weapon, the gunman switched to a .45 calibre pistol.

In one respect, the third attack appears different from the others: the gunman reportedly fired indiscriminatingly inside the school grounds.

"He shot at everything he could see, children and adults, and some children were chased into the school," prosecutor Michel Valet told reporters.

Nicole Yardeni, a local Jewish official who saw security video of the attack, described the gunman as "determined, athletic and well-toned". She said he had worn a helmet with the visor down.

Another detail that has emerged is that the killer appeared to be wearing a gopro-type camera.

Police have been viewing video allegedly taken by Merah of the shootings.

The suspect was shot dead on 22 March after a police siege at his flat in Toulouse which had lasted nearly a day and a half.

Reportedly armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, an Uzi machine-gun and several handguns, Merah is said by prosecutors to have opened fired on police as they closed in.

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