PARIS - France questioned on Thursday whether its intelligence service had blundered by allowing a young Muslim with a violent criminal record, spotted twice in Afghanistan, to become the first al-Qaida-inspired killer to strike on its soil.
Hardened by battling Islamic militants from its former North African colony of Algeria, France's security services have long been regarded as among the most effective in Europe, having prevented terror attacks on French soil for the last 15 years.
But Foreign Minister Alain Juppe acknowledged on Thursday there was reason to ask whether security flaws had permitted Mohamed Merah, 23, to carry out three deadly shootings within 10 days before he was identified, located and killed.
"One can ask the question whether there was a failure or not," Juppe told Europe 1 radio. "We need to bring some clarity to this."