Europe

Man held in France over Merah case released - reports

Image of Mohamed Merah next to a car, waving his hand in the air
Image caption Mohamed Merah died in a shoot-out with police at his flat in Toulouse on 22 March

A man held earlier this week in France on suspicion of being an accomplice of Islamist killer Mohamed Merah has been released, French media reports say.

A judicial source was quoted as saying the man was a member of the travelling community who had converted to Islam. His girlfriend was released earlier.

In March Merah killed three soldiers, and later an adult and three children at a Jewish school, in southern France.

He was killed in a police siege at his flat in Toulouse.

The man who was released on Friday was only identified as being 38-year-old. His girlfriend, also 38, had been released earlier.

The nature of the couple's potential involvement was not clear when they were arrested in Albi and Toulouse on Tuesday.

However, investigators are believed to have been searching for a suspected "third man" who reportedly was with Merah and his elder brother Abdelkader during the theft of a scooter used in the attacks.

Abdelkader Merah is so far the only man charged with complicity.

According to AFP news agency, he told detectives that another man had been present when the powerful scooter was stolen. However, he refused to identify him.

Another brother who has publicly denounced the crimes, Abdelghani Merah, told French media about a possible "third man" who was "from the travelling community".

Merah's three deadly attacks, which took place in rapid succession between 11 and 19 March, shocked France.

Three unarmed French soldiers were killed in two attacks in Montauban and Toulouse. A rabbi and three small children were later shot dead at the Jewish school in Toulouse.

Merah reportedly held one little girl, Myriam Monsonego, by her hair to shoot her in the head.

French intelligence had been monitoring him as a suspected Islamist militant following trips he made to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Cornered by police, he reportedly told negotiators he was a member of al-Qaeda.

According to French prosecutors, he expressed no regrets other than "not having claimed more victims" and was proud of having "brought France to its knees".

He said he had been motivated by the fate of the Palestinians, the French military presence in Afghanistan and France's ban on the full veil.