- (Photo: Reuters/Jean-Phillippe Arles)
The French shooter who left four dead outside a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday will reportedly turn himself in to authorities later today. Officials currently have his home surrounded and are in communication to bring him safely into custody.
Mohamed Merah, 24, has been identified as the shooter who went on a rampage throughout the French community, killing a total of seven people in the name of al-Qaida. Officials have traced his roots to Algeria and said that he had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan, though it is unclear if he received tactical training while in those countries.
"He claims to be a mujahedeen and to belong to al-Qaida," French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told the BBC. "He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."
Merah had been under suspicion of the authorities for "several years" for his relations with the Forsane Alizza of the Knights of Pride- a sociopolitical Islamic group banned by Gueant in January. Merah had previously been jailed for planting bombs in Afghanistan but escaped in 2008 thanks to a Taliban-led breakout.
Merah has reportedly told authorities that he will surrender to their custody sometime today. Until then, his home remains surrounded and the area has been cleared of civilians for safety measures.
Other members of Merah's family, including his brother and girlfriend, have been arrested for their participation in radical Islamic groups.
The victims of Monday's shootings have been laid to rest in Jerusalem, and a memorial is planned for the soldiers who were also killed by Merah. In a eulogy delivered by the Israeli speaker of parliament, Reuben Rivlin stated that "the entire house of Israel weeps over these murders."
French President Nicholas Sarkozy has called for unity during this tumultuous time for citizens.
"I have brought the Jewish and Muslim communities together to show that terrorism will not manage to break our nation's feeling of community. We must not cede to discrimination or vengeance," he stated.