- (Photo: Reuters/Jean-Phillippe Arles)
An early-morning shooting has left four dead and five seriously wounded outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
The attack by a lone gunman on a moped left the community of Toulouse, as well as the school of Ozar Hatorah, in shock. "This is a national tragedy. Everything will be done to find who is responsible and to make him pay for his crimes," promised French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who visited the school.
"The man initially used a 9 mm pistol after riding up to the school on his moped. When [the gun] jammed, he used a .45 caliber weapon and chased pupils inside the school. Those who died included a religious studies teacher and his two sons. The man was shooting at everything that appeared in his way. He then escaped on his moped," prosecutor Michael Valet told reporters.
Among the dead are two boys, aged three and six, as well as the daughter of the school's headmistress. Five others are reported seriously injured and have been taken to hospitals for treatment.
While the Jewish community mourns the losses, prosecutors are attempting to discern whether the gunman is the same gunman who killed three soldiers in two separate attacks near Toulouse. According to the reports, a similar scenario played out and left three soldiers of North African descent dead. Government officials are theorizing that these attacks could be those of a terrorist.
President Sarkozy has said it is "much too early" to provide a definite link between the attacks. "Whatever happens, faced with this kind of toll, we can say that the French Republic as a whole has been hit by this appalling tragedy."
Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Palmor told Bloomberg news, "We are following the events in Toulouse with shock, and we trust French authorities to shed full light on the crime and bring its perpetrators to justice."
"I am horrified by what happened outside a Jewish school in Toulouse today," said Gilles Bernheim, the Chief Rabbi of France. "It has bruised my body and my soul."
After appearing at Ozar Hatorah, Sarkozy went on French TV to discuss the shootings. "It's a tragedy," he stated. "I haven't any idea why anyone would do that. I can't accept such a massacre in a school. It's insane. They have no respect for life."