Intent on killing to the end, scooter assassin dies in hail of police bullets


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The Independent Online

The scooter assassin, Mohamed Merah, insisted on writing his own bloody script to the end.

After a 32-hour siege, the man who threatened to bring France "to its knees" died in a hail of police bullets yesterday morning while jumping from a window firing an automatic weapon.

It was confirmed yesterday that the 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin made chilling videos of his three attacks in the Toulouse area in the past fortnight, using a miniature camera draped around his neck.

Footage recovered from his flat by police shows him executing, at point-blank range, three small Jewish children and a teacher on Monday and three off-duty soldiers in two attacks earlier this month.

His own death yesterday morning – defying patient efforts by the French authorities to capture him alive – might have been taken from the last reel of a Hollywood movie.

More than 300 shots were fired in the space of five minutes, mostly by the heavily armed Merah himself. Three officers were slightly wounded: one shot in the foot, two shocked by the impact of Merah's bullets on their body armour.

France breathed a sigh of relief at the end of Merah's reign of terror yesterday but his death left many questions unanswered.

Was he working alone or following the instructions of al-Qa'ida, as a statement by a splinter group linked to the radical Islamist terror network claimed yesterday? Should the French authorities have tracked him earlier?

Both he and his brother, Abdelkader Merah, 29, who is under arrest, were known to belong to a small radical Islamist group in the Toulouse area.

When Mohamed Merah returned from a three-month trip to the Pakistani-Afghan border last year, he was questioned by French security agents. He insisted he was a tourist, not a terrorist, and was released.

Merah's trail of cold-blooded murder also threatens to stand the French presidential election campaign on its head. President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a series of new laws yesterday to clamp down on terrorism, which were immediately compared by French lawyers and civil rights activists to the draconian Homeland Security measures introduced by President George W Bush after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Under the new Sarkozy measures it will be illegal to consult websites which glorify or justify terrorism and for French citizens to attend Islamist training camps abroad.