France in the grip of grief and terror

 

Toulouse

One of the biggest manhunts in French history was under way last night after a gunman attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, coldly murdering a teacher and three children.

France was left in a state of shock by the brutal nature of the executions of small children, carried out by a young man in a motor-cycle helmet who escaped on a high-powered scooter. One of the guns used was the same weapon used by a scooter-riding gunman to murder three French soldiers in two attacks in the Toulouse area last week.

Yesterday's victims were said to include a 30-year-old teacher, his children aged six and three, and a girl of eight. Investigators said that harrowing film from a security camera showed that the gunman chased one of the girls, caught her and shot her in the head.

Every available detective and internal security agent in France was mobilised last night to try to track the gunman before he kills again. Although the hunt has been placed under the control of the national "anti-terrorism squad", investigators believe that the gunman may be a deranged but calculating lone fanatic – motivated either by extreme Islamist views, or by racism.

All three soldiers shot at close range in Toulouse and Montauban last week were of North African origin. Yesterday's attack, just after 8am as children were being dropped off, targeted a Jewish school in Jolimont, a leafy northern suburb of Toulouse.

Witnesses said that they saw the gunman, dressed all in black, fire a pistol at close range at the heads of a teacher and a group of children standing outside the Ozar Hatorah college. When his first gun jammed, the attacker produced another weapon – believed to be the same heavy calibre as a hand-gun used last week – and chased other children into the school itself. Several were seriously wounded and one of them, a 17-year-old boy, was in a critical condition last night.

One eye-witness, who gave his name as Alian, told French television: "These were not random shootings. I saw the man go up to the children one by one and point a gun at their heads and fire. Then he chased other children into the building." Franck Califa, a teacher at the school, which serves the 25,000-strong Jewish community, said: "All I have is tears. I can say nothing. I am in a state of shock."

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who went immediately to the scene, described the murders as an "appalling national tragedy" and ordered one minute's silence in all French schools this morning. "Whoever did this should know that everything, absolutely everything, will be done to track him down," Mr Sarkozy said. "Barbarism, savagery and cruelty cannot prevail. Our Republic is too strong for that, much too strong."

The attacks coincide with the presidential campaign, which Mr Sarkozy has steered towards questions of "national identity" and immigration. The Socialist candidate François Hollande, abandoned his campaign and travelled to Toulouse to express his solidarity with the Jewish community.

The Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, has been ordered by Mr Sarkozy to remain in Toulouse until the killer is found. Mr Guéant said that there were "striking similarities between the attacks on our soldiers in Toulouse and Montauban [last week] and this horrible attack on children this morning."

Thousands of detectives, and the agents of the internal security service, were instructed to put aside other investigations and concentrate on the hunt for the gunman.

In all three attacks the gunman used a motor-bike or scooter. In all three, he was dressed in black. In the two attacks last Monday and Thursday, a single gun was used, an old US-army 11.43 calibre revolver. Some of the cartridges found at the scene of yesterday's murders were of 11.43 calibre. Others came from a 9mm pistol.

In the first of last week's attacks, in Toulouse, the killer lured his victim into an ambush by answering his advertisement of a motor-bike for sale. In the second attack, in Montauban on Thursday, the gunman shot three uniformed paratroopers in broad daylight as they withdrew money from a cash-machine. The three dead men were all of North African origin. The fourth victim, who is still in a coma, was a black man from the French West Indies.

Investigators believed at first that the attacks might be connected to the presence of French troops in Afghanistan. Before yesterday, they were veering towards the theory of a "lone nut" with extreme racist views or a grudge against the army.

City profile: cultural melting pot

Located in the south-west of France, north of the Pyrenees, Toulouse is known as the "Ville Rose" because of the pink colour of its brickwork.

A cosmopolitan town, with a rich cultural and intellectual history, it has the second-highest student population in France after Paris and has a culturally and ethnically diverse population. France has the largest Jewish community in Western Europe, estimated at about 500,000, as well as its largest Muslim population, about five million.

Toulouse has between 10,000 and 15,000 Jews in its overall population of 440,000, according to Jean-Paul Amoyelle, president of the Ozar Hatorah school network. He said the Toulouse Jewish community is well integrated. Jenny Stevens

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice