French intelligence services downgraded an investigation of Mohamed Merah just five months before he opened fire at a crowd of parents and children outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, killing four, AFP reported Friday citing leaked intelligence documents.
According to the French DCRI domestic intelligence service reports, seen by AFP, Merah had been under surveillance since 2006, and was identified as a "privileged target" at the beginning of 2011 upon his return to France in from a trip to Afghanistan.
DCRI agents intercepted Merah in 2011 after the Frenchman returned from a trip to Pakistan. Despite evidence that Merah had been in regular contact with "the radical Islamist movement in Toulouse," was displaying "paranoid behavior," and that he was receiving funds from extremists, the French agency concluded that Merah's surveillance could be curtailed.
Merah killed Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, his two children and the daughter of the school’s principal in the attack outside the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school. The French gunman died after police stormed his apartment two days after the attack.
First arrested at 17, Merah had a number of run-ins with police as a teenager for stone-throwing and shoplifting, before being sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2007 for a robbery. Merah had since ratcheted up at least 15 criminal convictions, and according to DCRI reports was "an individual with a heavy criminal past who is in the process of radicalizing."
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