Sarkozy mad 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A gunman opened fire at a crowd of parents and children outside a Jewish school
in Toulouse, France, on Monday morning, killing four people.
said the unknown assailant drove up to the Ozar Hatorah school’s entrance on a
black scooter around 8:00 a.m. and fired at the people gathered there with a
heavy-caliber firearm and a pistol.
Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, a 30- year-old
French-born teacher from Jerusalem; his two children Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 3;
and 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, the daughter of the school’s principal, died in
the attack. Several others were wounded.
“I saw two people dead in front
of the school, an adult and a child... Inside, it was a vision of horror, the
bodies of two small children,” a distraught father whose child attends the
school told RTL radio.
“I did not find my son; apparently he fled when he
saw what happened. How can they attack something as sacred as a school, attack
children only sixty centimeters tall!”
There will be a moment of silence
throughout France on Tuesday in memory of the Toulouse victims.
believe the shooting was the work of a killer who had recently murdered three
French soldiers on two separate occasions in the area. They said forensic
evidence revealed a gun used at the school was the same used in the previous
The suspect is believed to be a man of slightly below average
height and stocky build who rides a Model T Yamaha motorcycle, wears a black
helmet and wields a .45 caliber pistol.
The victims in all three
shootings were members of minority groups, but the exact motivation of the
killer is still unknown.
The first murder linked to the gunman took place
on March 11. Police found the body of Imad Ibn-Ziaten, a 30- year-old staff
sergeant of North African descent, behind a school in Toulouse. Investigators
suspect the off-duty serviceman was lured there by his murderer.
Thursday, a gunman riding a motorcycle and wearing a black helmet opened fire on
three French soldiers in uniform at a shopping mall in Montauban, a city 50
kilometers north of Toulouse. Abel Chennouf, 24, and Muhammad Legouad, 26, both
of North African descent, were killed. Loic Liber, 28, of Afro- Caribbean
descent, was left in a coma.
During the attack, one eyewitness said the
assailant pushed an old lady out of his way before emptying his gun directly
into one of the wounded soldiers from close range, Le Figaro
reported. Another said the gunman was stocky and short.
morning, a motorcyclist similar in description to the one involved in the second
attack opened fire on the people gathered outside the entrance of the Ozar
On this occasion, the suspect is said to have also used a
.35 heavy-caliber firearm. Experts were quoted as saying that using two guns of
different calibers seemed to indicate that the assailant was not a guns expert –
otherwise, the gunman would have used two firearms using the same
French police have launched a massive manhunt for the suspect
while Interior Minister Claude Gueant has ordered increased security at Jewish schools throughout the
French paper Le Point reported Monday that police are searching
for three former paratroopers, who were dismissed over suspicion of being
neo-Nazis in 2008.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Monday’s
attack was the work of the same gunman responsible for the killing of the three
soldiers last week.
“We know that it is the same person and the same
weapon that killed the soldiers, the children and the teacher,” Sarkozy said in
a televised address, saying the terrorism alert level in France had been
“This act is odious and cannot remain unpunished.” Sarkozy
also said he would suspend his campaign for France’s April-May presidential
election until Wednesday.
Sarkozy, who is facing an election later this
year, is personally overseeing the investigation in Toulouse. In a press
conference, he vowed to find the perpetrator of the attacks.
his main political opponent François Hollande also traveled to the region to
express solidarity with the local residents and the Jewish
France is taking immediate action to increase security around
Jewish schools, French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot said in an
interview on Channel 2.
“There is security around every Jewish school in
France,” Bigot said. “We are going to provide more security.”
Bigot said, were necessary to protect French citizens and French
The entire country is in shock from the “horror” of the incident
and mourning the loss of innocent life, Bigot said.
“This is a tragedy
for all the French, not only the French Jews,” he said. “There is tremendous
“These kids are our kids, the kids of all French people,”
the ambassador continued.
Earlier in the day, Gil Taieb, a vice president
of the CRIF, France’s Jewish umbrella group, told The Jerusalem Post that he had
no doubt the attack was a hate crime.
“For someone to locate this school
in a place like Toulouse means he knew what he was doing,” Taieb said. “He went
there to kill Jews.”
Taieb said the community was in a state of
“There are occasional anti- Semitic attacks but they are small,
nothing like this,” he said. “We haven’t had something like this in at least 10
The shooting was the single worst act of violence against Jews in
France since 1982, when six people were killed and 22 wounded in a grenade
attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris that was believed to have carried out by
a Palestinian group.
The most recent anti-Semitic murder occurred in 2006
when Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and killed by a gang in Paris in a crime that had
Some 500,000 Jews live in France, which has the world’s
third-largest Jewish community.
A recent spate of attacks and attempted
attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets in India, Thailand, Georgia and Azerbaijan
allegedly by Iranian-backed assassins raises suspicions. The attacks are
believed to be retaliation for the mysterious killings of nuclear scientists in
the Islamic Republic that Tehran has blamed on Israel.
French police were
not ruling out anything on Monday. By press time, they had still not apprehended
Rabbi Avraham Weill, the chief rabbi of Toulouse, said there
was no warning that the community, which numbers about 20,000, might be
“There was nothing – no phone call, no warning,” he said over
the phone from France.
Weill said his top priority was to comfort the
families of the victims and prepare the bodies for burial.
contributed to this report.