Police suspect spree killer behind Jewish school attack

Tests reveal same gun was used in recent shootings that killed three French soldiers; all shooting victims were members of minority groups; French police launch manhunt to find suspect.

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
March 19, 2012 18:23
2 minute read.
French Police outside Jewish school after shooting

Toulouse France shooting police 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles )

 
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The fatal shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday morning may have been the work of a spree killer who is believed to have murdered seven people in southern France over the last nine days.

French police said forensic evidence revealed the gun used to kill four people --a teacher, his two children and another child-- at the Ozar Hatorah school was the same used to slay three French soldiers on two separate occasions nearby.

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The victims in the shootings were all members of minority groups but the exact motivation of the killer is yet unknown.

French police guard Ozar Hatorah Jewish school (Reuters)

The first murder linked to the gun took place on March 11. Police found the body of Imad Ibn-Ziaten, a 30-year-old staff sergeant of North African descent, dead behind a school in Toulouse. Investigators suspect the off duty serviceman was lured there by his murderer.

Last Thursday a gunman riding a scooter 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 Mohamed Legouad, 26, both of North African descent, were killed. Loic Liber, 28, of Afro-Caribbean descent, was left in a coma.

On Monday morning a motorcyclist similar in description to the gunman involved in the second attack drove up to the entrance of Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse and opened fire on a group of parents and children that gathered outside on the start of the school day.

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Yonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old teacher from Jerusalem; his two children Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 3; and 8-year-old Miriam Monstango, the daughter of the school's principal, died in the attack and several others were wounded.

"We are struck by the similarities between the modus operandi of today's drama and those last week even if we have to wait to have more elements from the police to confirm this hypothesis," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a press conference.

French police have launched a massive manhunt for the suspect while French Interior Minister Claude Gueant has ordered increased security at Jewish schools throughout the country.

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.

The Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse (Reuters)

Meanwhile, his main political opponent Francois Hollande also traveled to the region to express solidarity with the Jewish community.

Earlier in the day Gil Taieb, a vice president of the CRIF, France's Jewish umbrella group, told The Jerusalem Post 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."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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