French police forces stormed the Toulouse residence of Mohammed Merah, the gunman believed responsible for Monday’s deadly shooting on Ozar Hatorah Jewish School in the city.
The raid began at half-past-midnight, after nearly 24 hours of negotiations and what one of the most dramatic standoffs France has ever seen.
Merah, who is also linked to the killing of three French soldiers last week, announced that he will surrender on Wednesday night, but it was later reported that he had asked negotiators for more time.
The siege placed on the quiet neighborhood in the Southwestern city was described by French authorities as the most extensive manhunt mounted in France since a wave of terrorist attacks in the 1990s by Algerian extremists.
Hundreds of police officers cordoned off the streets around Merah’s apartment complex. A pre-dawn raid of the premises erupted into a firefight which left three policemen wounded.
Negotiators are still trying to convince Merah to surrender, as security forces appear gears for a night-long war of attrition.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told local media that Merah set out to kill another soldier on Monday. Failing to find a target, Mareh opened fire at a Jewish school instead.
Gueant said earlier that Merah saught to "avenge the Palestinian children" and to take revenge on the French army for of its foreign interventions.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said Merah was a self-taught radical Salafi who had been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan. He assreted that the gunman had also planned to carry out another shooting on Wednesday before being found by the police.
French authorities – like others in Europe – have long been concerned about "lone-wolf" attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who self-radicalize online. Molins’ comments, however, marked the first time a radical Islamic motive has been ascribed to killings in France in years.