Explicit, close-up footage of the seven Toulouse murders received by a TV station this week was not sent by the killer, but by an accomplice, French police said yesterday.
The satellite news channel Al Jazeera confirmed that it would not broadcast the material, which arrived at its Paris bureau on Monday, after President Nicolas Sarkozy asked the station not to air the "vile images" during a speech to police and magistrates involved in the investigation.
The package sent to Al Jazeera contained a letter, purportedly from al-Qa'ida, and a USB stick with edited footage of the killings filmed at close range.
Mohamed Merah, 23, is known to have worn a miniature camera strapped to his chest during the three attacks he staged over eight days.
Police believe the package, posted just outside Toulouse last Wednesday, cannot have been sent by Merah, who was by that time under siege in his flat. They suspect the killer sent the footage to an accomplice or an extremist Islamist website, either before or during his 32-hour stand-off with police in Toulouse last week.
Zied Tarrouche, Al Jazeera's Paris bureau chief, said yesterday that the video contained harrowing scenes from all three attacks in chronological order, culminating in the murder of three Jewish children and a teacher outside a school in Toulouse. The scenes had been edited, and religious songs and recitations of verses of the Koran had been laid over the footage.
"You can hear gunshots at the moment of the killings. You can hear the voice of this person who has committed these murders. You can hear also the cries of the victims," Mr Tarrouche said.
The Al Jazeera headquarters in Qatar announced later that it had decided not to broadcast the film.
Patrick Klugman, lawyer for the families of the teacher and children murdered last Monday, said earlier that broadcasting the video would amount to "completing the crime and the project of the criminal".
Latifa Ibn Ziaten, 52, whose son was one of the three paratroopers murdered by Merah, said: "They want to show [his death] as if it was a movie. Please, no, I don't want that."
Merah, who was shot dead last Thursday morning in a hail of police bullets while resisting arrest, told negotiators during the siege that he intended to place the films on the internet.
Police found original footage in his flat after his death. It remained unclear yesterday who posted the package with the USB stick to Al Jazeera.
Investigators believe that Merah had some help from his brother, Abdelkader, 29, but he was arrested last Tuesday night. Police are also looking for a "third man" who is believed to have helped the Merah brothers to steal a Yamaha T-Max scooter used during the murders.
They believe the package could have been sent to Al Jazeera by this, or another accomplice or, more likely, by an extremist Islamist website or group which received the footage from Mohamed Merah. If so, the film may be posted on radical Islamist sites in the days ahead.