Sarkozy mad 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the same gunman who shot dead a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday was also responsible for the killing of three soldiers last week, apparently motivated by racism.
"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 raised.
"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.
French police said earlier Monday that 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.
The victims in the shootings were all members of minority groups but the exact motivation of the killer is yet unknown.
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.
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.
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.