21 Mar 2012

French police in Toulouse standoff

9:52 pm on 21 March 2012

In Toulouse, French special forces were in a stand-off Wednesday with a man believed to have been responsible for killing four people at a Jewish school on Tuesday and three soldiers last week.

Heavily armed police in bullet-proof vests and helmets had cordoned off the residential area surrounding a house where the man is holed up, and gunshots had been heard.

The French interior minister, Claude Gueant, said the 24-year-old man is a French citizen of North African descent who claims to belong to al-Qaeda.

Mr Gueant said the suspect told officers through the door he was fighting to avenge Palestinian children killed in the conflict with Israel.

The man's mother was brought to the scene to help with negotiations.

Two police were slightly wounded as the operation got underway Tuesday morning.

The gunman killed a teacher and three children at the school in Toulouse on Monday. The bodies of the victims, who were all dual French-Israeli citizens, will be flown to Israel for burial, the BBC reports.

The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks.

French schools held a minute's silence on Tuesday.

Jewish and Muslim community leaders are organising a silent march in Paris at the weekend in memory of the victims.