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Suspect in French Jewish school shooting cuts contact with police; Toulouse area evacuated

21.03.2012 09:15  | 

The prime suspect in the killings of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, southwest France, earlier this week, has cut off contact with police on Wednesday after saying he would turn himself in. The area where the suspect is barricading himself has been evacuated.

About 300 police, some in bullet-proof body armor, cordoned off an area surrounding a four-storey house in a leafy suburb of the city of Toulouse where the 24-year-old Muslim man, identified as Mohamed Merah, was holed up on the ground floor.

According to the French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, the suspect was followed for several years by France's domestic intelligence service.

According to reports, two sisters and two brothers of the suspect are now being held by police.

Download the new and improved Haaretz app for iPhone and Android to get the latest updates on the events unfolding in Toulouse.

The 24-year-old man has already turned over a Colt handgun by throwing it out of the window in exchange for a means of communication with police, Gueant said.

In a brief address to reporters at the Elysee presidential palace on Wednesday, Sarkozy said, "We must be united. We must give in neither to discrimination nor revenge."

"I have brought together the Jewish and Muslim communities to show that terrorism will not manage to break our nation's feeling of community," he added.

He said he would attend the memorial service later on Wednesday for the three French soldiers killed in the first two attacks.

French police began a raid on a house in Toulouse at 3 A.M. local time on Wednesday to arrest suspects in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah school. The interior minister told French media that French police believe the prime suspect in the shooting is believed to be in the house. Two French police were injured in a shoot-out during the raid.

Meanwhile, a funeral service for the three victims of the shooting at the Jewish school in Toulouse earlier this week began in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning.

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