Update: Quoting French prosecutors, the BBC is reporting that Merah’s cause of death was a shot to his head, allegedly fired by a sniper. It remains unclear whether the shot was fired as Merah was falling from the window.
After more than 30 hours, a dramatic stand-off between French police and Mohamed Merah, the man suspected of killing seven people in the past two weeks, ended this morning as he jumped out a window to his death. Le Figaro reports that Merah was shooting his gun at police as he jumped from his hiding apartment in Toulouse. Two police officers are hurt and another one is in shock.
During the long siege, more details emerged about the man suspected of killing three children and a rabbi outside a Jewish school earlier this week, and three French soldiers last week. Merah, 23, said he was a member of al-Qaeda and was avenging the death of Palestinian children, says the BBC, adding that Merah served in a French jail for robbery with violence from December 2007 to September 2009. French intelligence services knew of Merah and are now facing a storm of questions about whether the attacks could have been prevented.
In a sober televised statement earlier today, French President Nicolas Sarkoz declared:
The French should not give rein to anger – our Muslim compatriots have nothing to do with the crazy actions of a terrorist. We should not embark on any stigmatisation.
Sarkozy vowed to propose new legislation making it a criminal offense to visit Internet websites justifying terrorism.