Mohamed Merah has been killed by French police after 32 hours of siege
The French police siege in Toulouse has ended with the death of Mohamed Merah, the man suspected of killing seven people, the French interior minister has said.
Police stormed the flat where Mohammed Merah was holed up at 10:30 a.m., after a siege that had lasted 32 hours.
Mohamed Merah, 23, fired at officers and was found dead after jumping from a window.
The self-confessed al-Qaeda militant was suspected of killing four people outside a Jewish school and three soldiers in three separate attacks.
Mohamed Merah said he was acting to “avenge Palestinian children” and protest against French military interventions overseas.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said officers had thrown grenades and entered by the door and windows of the flat.
After surveying the scene and finding no sign of the suspect, they proceeded to the bathroom, moving slowly as they were wary of booby-traps.
When officers tried to find out if there was anyone in the bathroom, the suspect came out firing several weapons.
Claude Gueant said the suspect was “shooting very violently. The bursts of gunfire were frequent and hard”.
Mohamed Merah then jumped from a window, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground.
One police source told AFP that Mohamed Merah had been killed by police as he fled.
Two officers were reported wounded in the final assault.
Claude Gueant said: “A RAID [special police] officer who is used to this kind of thing told me that he had never seen such a violent assault.”
Earlier Claude Gueant had said it was unclear whether Mohamed Merah was still alive, because there had been no contact overnight.
He had said the object had been to take Mohamed Merah alive.
A number of explosions had been set off overnight to intimidate Mohamed Merah, officials said.
They said he was armed with a Kalashnikov high-velocity rifle, a mini-Uzi 9 mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades.
Street lights were switched off in the vicinity of the building on Wednesday evening and surrounding areas evacuated.
Mohamed Merah claimed to have received al-Qaeda training in Pakistan’s Waziristan area, and also said he had been to Afghanistan.
Claude Gueant defended intelligence services for not preventing the attacks, describing Mohamed Merah as a “lone wolf”.
“The domestic intelligence agency tracks a lot of people who are involved in Islamist radicalism. Expressing ideas… is not enough to bring someone before justice,” Claude Gueant said.
Christian Etelin, a lawyer who has previously acted for Mohamed Merah, said his client had violent tendencies.
“There was his religious engagement, an increasing hatred against the values of a democratic society and a desire to impose what he believes is truth,” Christian Etelin said.
He also denied earlier reports that Mohamed Merah had been jailed for explosives offensives in Afghanistan, saying his client was in jail in France for robbery with violence at the time – from December 2007 to September 2009.
The killings took place in and around Toulouse in three separate incidents earlier this month.
On 11 March, a soldier was shot and killed while waiting to see a man about selling his motorcycle.
Days later, two soldiers were shot and killed and a third was wounded while waiting at a cash machine.
Then earlier this week, three children and an adult were shot and killed outside a Jewish school.
The four Jewish victims were buried in an emotional funeral in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, President Nicolas Sarkozy attended a memorial for the three murdered soldiers at a military base in Montauban near Toulouse.