Algeria refuses French gunman's body for burial

Body of Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah in limbo as authorities figure out where to bury it.

March 29, 2012 12:11
2 minute read.
Alleged photo of Mohamed Merah from French TV.

French Toulouse shooter Mohamed Merah 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/France 2 Television)


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The murderous rampage carried out by a self-styled Islamist earlier this month that left seven people --including four Jews-- dead continued to rankle France on Thursday.

The body of gunman Mohamed Merah was kept in a hospital morgue in Toulouse while his family and authorities deliberated where and when it will be buried.

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Earlier in the day Algerian authorities refused to allow the corpse to be sent there for burial as his father had asked, an official at a top French mosque said.

Zekri, an advisor to the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris who was in Toulouse dealing with the funeral arrangements, said the mayor of the Algerian village of Bezzaz where Merah's father wanted him buried had declined the request for security reasons.

"The mayor of Bezzaz gave a negative response," he said. "He should be buried within 24 hours, probably in the Toulouse region, but it will be kept strictly private."

Following the announcement it was expected that Merah would be buried in Toulouse, but Mayor Pierre Cohen on Thursday evening postponed funeral arrangements by 24 hours after Jewish groups protested against his burial in the city.

Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin who was shot dead by a police sniper last week following a more than 30-hour siege at his home in Toulouse.

The killings have heightened ethnic and religious tensions throughout the country. Also on Thursday, the Jewish school in Tououse where Merah killed three children and a teacher received a rash of anti-Semitic hate mail and phone calls since the attack.

The Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse complained to the local prosecutor about the harassing mail and phone calls, the French news agency AFP reported.

Prosecutor Michel Valet said Wednesday that he had ordered a police investigation into the incidents.

The school's email system reportedly filled up with messages calling for the murder of Jews and linking the attack to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to AFP.

The gunman, Mohammed Merah, who was killed by police after a 30-hour siege, told French police that he killed the Jewish students at the school in revenge for Palestinian children killed in Gaza, and had killed three French soldiers the previous week for serving in Afghanistan.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 8-year-old daughter of the school's principal, were killed in the March 21 attack.

The father of Merah caused a stir the day before when he announced his intention to sue France for killing his son instead of capturing him alive, and French police are currently investigating his elder brother, Abdelkader, for possible complicity in the case.

As the country headed towards the first round of the presidential elections next month the wound opened up by Merah's murders continued to fester with no end in sight.

Gil Shefler contributed to this story.

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