Toulouse gunman's brother transferred to Paris


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The Independent Online

The mother of the man accused of killing seven people in a gun rampage in France is set to be released, while his brother has been transferred in police custody to Paris, an official said today.

The official says Mohamed Merah's mother will be released in the next few hours.

Abdelkader Merah was transferred today to police anti-terrorist headquarters, along with his girlfriend.

The brother had already been questioned several years ago about alleged links to a network sending youths from the Toulouse area to Iraq.

Under French law if either of the two continue to be held beyond the weekend, preliminary charges will have to be filed.

Merah was killed in a dramatic gunfight with police Thursday after a 32-hour stand-off at his Toulouse apartment.

Abdelkader Merah was transferred to French police's anti-terrorist headquarters in Paris with an eye toward possible charges, union spokesman Michel Crepin said.

Police are investigating whether or not Mohamed Merah acted alone, and Crepin told reporters that detectives have already gathered evidence to suggest that Abdelkader Merah may have helped his brother carry out his rampage.

Asked what evidence police had, Crepin said there was evidence to suggest that Abdelkader Merah had "furnished means (and) worked as an accomplice". Crepin refused to comment further, saying it was for a judge to decide what charges, if any, to bring.

Meanwhile, a family lawyer says the pregnant girlfriend of a French soldier killed in a dramatic gun rampage will wed her partner in a posthumous ceremony. 

Lawyer Gilbert Collard says that 21-year-old Caroline Monet will marry Abel Chennouf, who was shot dead at a cash machine in the town of Montauban near Toulouse earlier this month. 

The 25-year-old soldier was one of seven people allegedly gunned down by Mohamed Merah, a French citizen who claimed to be acting as an al-Qa'ida foot soldier. 

Investigators have so far found no signs that he was in fact under orders from al-Qa'ida or any other militant group. 

Collard says Monet has received preliminary approval from the president's office for the ceremony.

Such ceremonies are unusual but not unheard of in France, where the law allow posthumous marriages in cases where a fiance dies before the wedding. The law states that such weddings can only be approved by the French president "in grave circumstances".

"I've already had it done twice, for policemen's girlfriends," Collard said. "It's a really moving ceremony, with an empty chair representing the dead spouse."

Collard said the official request was being sent today, but that he'd already received the nod from the French president's office.

"There won't be any problems," Collard said, adding that he hopes the ceremony will "let the child have a father".