Gunman no longer on the loose in Toulouse


The recent shootings in Toulouse, which were perpetrated by French alleged former jihadi fighter Mohamed Merah, have been turned into a national tragedy in France. The Jews as usual have gone nuts over the incident (Merah had shot a rabbi and three Jewish children). The usual anti-Semitism brigade came out in force with the usual mission to persuade the world that Israel can do no wrong. EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, drew criticism in Israel over what Israeli leaders said was an attempt to make the massacre of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers engaged in ‘self-defence’ military activities in the Gaza strip equivalent to the intentional and anti-Semitism-motivated shooting of Jewish children in Toulouse. The point being that the death of Palestinian children is justified whereas the death of Jewish children is unjustifiable.

Back from planet Israel to the real world, one is immediately confronted with the fact that Merah didn’t only target Jews, he inaugurated his shooting spree with three French soldiers of ‘North African’ descent (Private First Class Mohammed Legouade, 23, Corporal Abel Chennouf, 25, and Imad Ibn Ziaten, 30). I don’t know what ‘North African’ is supposed to mean here, but one of the dead soldiers is probably from Morocco as this is where he was buried.

Merah is dead. As he jumped from a first floor window after a 36-hour siege by French Special Forces (RAID), he was hit in the head by a retaliatory shot from a RAID officer. Attempts to arrest him alive have failed; therefore we will never know what he had to say. But what do Algerians in Algeria think of this affair?

To answer this question, I have quickly browsed comments left by readers on Arabic national newspapers’ websites. I assumed that Arabic newspapers are more widely read by Algerians than French ones. There seems to be four clans:

The Zionist/ Masonic conspiracy clan
This group argues that Merah is a French agent who was manipulated by French authorities and the Zionist/ Massonic lobby in order to damage Islam/ Muslims’ image and give French authorities a fresh excuse to clamp down on immigrants.

The “France is to blame” clan
This group argues that Merah is a French product and that Algeria has nothing to do with him. France should take responsibility for its citizens, no matter what ethnic origin they happen to have. After all, when Zidane was scoring goals for the French national football team, he was just ‘French’.

The ‘what you sow is what you reap’ clan
This group saw in the incident a just retribution to avenge the Palestinian children and all the savage acts undertaken by France and its Western allies in the Muslim world.

The ‘tbahdila, li zalgiriens dangi’ clan
This group decided that the blame ought to be on Algerians themselves. How could we explain that Algerians tend to be heavily represented in self-proclaimed Al Qaida terrorists? They are more represented than Palestinians themselves, the first concerned by the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict! Furthermore, French citizens from Algerian origins tend to be the most useless and more prone to violence and petty crime than other Maghreb communities. There must be something terribly wrong with Algerians.

French immigrants from Maghrebian origin have largely tended to argue defensively that this killing spree does not reflect the ‘true spirit of Islam’ and that Merah should not be taken as representative of the Algerian/ Maghrebian/ Muslim community. This has also been the official position of the French authorities.

But what do we know about Merah apart from his Algerian origins? Here is a collection of ‘facts’ that were mentioned in press reports here and there:

What friends and acquaintances of Merah say:

  • He likes football, scooters and motorbikes: the first victim was killed after arranging to meet a man in Toulouse to sell him a scooter. A friend who attended the same primary school as Merah said “He likes football and motor-bikes like any other guy his age; I didn’t even know he prayed.”
  • A friend of Moroccan origin, who gave the nickname Danny Dem, said Merah had tried to enlist in the French army but had been rejected. He said he had seen Merah in a nightclub in the city centre just last week. He also said that Merah didn’t drink, “but I don’t think he is any more religious than I am. I think he has just lost the plot”. The AFP confirmed that Merah “twice tried and failed to join the French army”.
  • Eric Lambert, 46, whose son was an upstairs neighbor in Merah’s apartment block, described Merah as friendly and “extremely normal”, and said he had helped about 10 months ago to carry a heavy sofa upstairs.
  • Friends told a Reuters reporter he had never talked to them about religion and they had no idea he had been to Afghanistan.
  • Another friend, who gave his name as Kamal and said he was a financial adviser at La Banque Postale, said that “He is someone who is very discreet. He is not someone who would brag and go around and say: ‘Oh look at my new girlfriend, look how great I am.’ He is very polite and always well-behaved, he never spoke about Islam, but he did pray. But we all pray five times a day … “
  • He grew up in a poor neighborhood in north Toulouse and didn’t have a dad. He had a criminal record of petty theft and violent assault but no overt signs of religious or political militancy.
  • Another man, who said he was 24 and a warehouse worker but did not give his name, said he knew the family, in particular Merah’s brother. He said that Merah “was the kind of kid who got into trouble, but he was a banal young guy. Over the past two years he had changed a lot. He wasn’t into having fun, he became harder. He didn’t really go to the mosque; he seemed more likely to meet people in obscure flats.”
  • His lawyer, Christian Etelin, described him as “by no means rigid or fanatical”, and said he could never imagine him committing crimes of such “hardness and extremity … If you could say anything, it was that he was polite and courteous … quite sweet actually”. But he said there was nevertheless a darker side to Merah, who was imprisoned at 18 for snatching a bag in the entrance hall of a bank. “Unlike a lot of others who grew up alongside him in that area in the north of the city, he was not involved in drugs. His thing was petty theft,” Etelin said.

This is strange when we consider ‘official’ claims that Merah had been under surveillance since returning from Afghanistan. But it might be that the auto-radicalization process took place in the recent past and friends had not had a chance to notice. It happened in Algeria in the 90s. Nowadays it is even easier as a number of Jihadi websites recruit militants online. Also being overtly religious isn’t a reliable signal for radicalization. It must however be said that it is not unusual for murderers and serial killers to be described as ‘sweet’, ‘charming’ and ‘extremely normal’/ ‘banal’. This is what makes these things all the more scary and disturbing.

What French authorities say:

  • The prosecutor, Francois Molins, said that Merah had been to Afghanistan twice and trained in Pakistan’s Waziristan, a militant stronghold. He said Merah’s brother had been implicated in a network that sent militant fighters to Iraq.
  • Merah was found to have quite a good arsenal of weapons and, given that he was under surveillance, it’s not clear how this could have escaped the attention of the authorities.
  • Le Monde reported that he went twice to Pakistan, once in 2010 and again 2011, to speak with groups of fighters based in the tribal regions near the border with Afghanistan. It further claimed that he trained alongside Pakistani Taliban, foreign jihadis and members of the Haqqani network and that he even crossed the border into Afghanistan as part of groups sent to fight NATO troops.
  • Another claim emerged during the armed siege of Merah’s apartment block to the effect that, in 2008, Merah escaped in a mass jailbreak in Kandahar, where he had been arrested for bomb making the previous year. The claim has apparently been denied by Afghan security sources on their Twitter account, but Jawed Faisal, a spokesman for the Kandahar provincial government, said: “I can’t confirm it was the same person but there was someone in Kandahar prison with the name Mohammed Merah, who was famous as ‘the French guy’”.
  • Merah is said to be an adherent of Salafism. Police found weapons and explosives in his brother’s car, also an adherent to Salafism.
  • French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, describing how Merah’s mother had declined to help police by speaking to her besieged son, said that “His mother said she did not wish to speak to him because she did not believe she could convince him and he would be deaf to her appeals,..”. Guéant said Merah had “explained a lot about his agenda” to police negotiators. “His radicalization took place in a Salafist ideological group and seems to have been firmed up by two journeys he made to Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Evidence on at least some of alleged activities of Merah in Afghanistan appears to be sketchy. However, it is very likely that a person named Mohamed Merah had made at least one trip to Afghanistan from 2007 onwards. How Merah managed to have so many weapons whilst being under surveillance is yet to be explained.

What Merah said to police negotiators and France 24
In reported conversations with French police negotiators and Ebba Kalondo, editor-in-chief of France 24, whom Merah allegedly called at 1:00 AM during the siege, Merah is claimed to have explained that it was on his visits to Afghanistan that he joined Al Qaida. He said that he wanted to take revenge for the deaths of Palestinian children; he was against the headscarf ban and was fighting against the French participation in NATO operations in Afghanistan. Kalondo said that Merah was calm, spoke in good French punctuated with Arabic expressions and said all the murders had been filmed and the videos would be posted online. The call lasted 10 minutes, where Merah allegedly announced further terrorist plans in Paris, Lyon and Marseille and revealed details that were only known to him and the police (eg. number of bullets fired, types of guns used…etc.). It has also been reported that Merah has said that he is proud to have ‘brought France down on its knees’.

France seems to have a big internal problem with its immigrants community, many of whom (especially those of Algerian origin), appear to have a curious love-to-hate relationship with it. Very reminiscent of the one Algerian Algerians seem to have with their former colonizer.

Impact on upcoming French presidential election
It is not clear how this incident will affect the upcoming French presidential election.  Analysts say that security is likely to become a major issue in the campaign, which has been dominated by the economy and immigration issues up till now. Internet regulation might also crop up at some point as it has become a non negligeable source of radicalization material. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has been leading in polls and some go as far as accusing the Sarkozy administration of having staged this ‘coup’ in order for Sarkozy to come out of it as a national hero. Did Sarkozy need Toulouse in order not to lose? Only time will tell.

In any case, Muslims will be the most affected by this, as Islamophobia is said to be on the rise in France and right-wing parties have been gaining popularity in recent years. However, this is not specific to France, there appears to be a wave of Islamophobia in most Western media. A good place to sample this is the Daily Wail. Here is what it has to say about this case.

17 thoughts on “Gunman no longer on the loose in Toulouse

  1. I had no idea there was a ” ‘tbahdila, li zalgiriens dangi’ clan ” loool. The press and the French authorities have handled this case like a Die Hard movie. It has been atrocious to follow on so many levels. This is where I find the French authorities particularly irresponsible, by letting reality be treated as some fiction on a wide screen, people will stop projecting themselves in what’s real (the gratuitous, frightening murder of the innocent, particularly children) but will start relating to events as if we were in some Roman amphitheatre. And this is what France has become: a mob on a square cheering in front of a guillotine (started in the 1990s, merci Pasqua). The only element that has changed in that medieval picture is that we now wear jeans.

    As a French born woman of Algerian origins I know that until the French government and its national policies stop refering to us as immigrants or sons and daughters of immigrants then none of us will ever be on friendly terms with the system, simply because we’ve emigrated from nowhere.

    • NG

      I had no idea there was a ” ‘tbahdila, li zalgiriens dangi’ clan ” loool

      I hope there are no Moroccans or Egyptians reading but I think this might well be a ‘fake’ clan from said countries posing as Algerians LOL!! Am half-joking, there are genuine Algerians who hate what Algerians have become.

      Thanks for the insight. I don’t read or watch French media but I distinctly remember how they handled the Air France plane hijacking by Algerian terrorists back in the 90s. Bloody hell, the GIGN were depicted as some sort of war epic heroes. Even Americans are not that bad. The French ego and megalomania knows no bounds, they’re snookered by themselves and they’re dragging us down with them because we are still very attached to them. Infuriating.

  2. Nice round-up. And well done for the loose/Toulouse🙂
    I noticed some Algerian newspapers talked about this story in their domestic affairs columns whereas others put it in their world affairs sections.
    Some relatives told me that once again, because of Beurs’ misbehaviour, it will be harder for Algerians to get their visas🙂 So I think the love-to-hate relationship between Algerians and French-born of Algerian descent is also to be considered. What is being Algerian after all?

  3. @ilfdinar: What’s your take on this story then?

    @MnarviDZ: Cheers! The pun was intended of course, couldn’t let the oppotunity pass😉 What is being Algerian? Bou kistiou, but I think so far it has been defined as ‘Algerian = Not French’. It resulted in all sorts of mad twists because the bottom line is that identity cannot be defined in words, it transcends words, it simply is.

  4. There is another Mohamed Merah, a boxeur, he’s not very pleased about the bad publicity
    Mohamed Merah

    The media have embarrassed themselves yet again. They never do the proper checks do they. Right in the beginning, they built a whole case for an extreme right ‘Front National’ type nutter being behind the shootings and it turned out to be a ‘beur’.

    PS: Pertinent vid MnarviDZ

  5. Les chaînes d’information en continu sont souvent le contraire de l’information. Ils doivent meubler, faire du n’importe quoi pour créer l’évenement et faire parler les pseudo experts qui disent souvent des conneries.

    Sur le côté algérien du tueur. Des deux côtés de la méditerranée, soit on s’arrache les valeurs positives (Zidane, français là bas, algérien ici ou l’équipe algérienne de foot formée de français) ou on se débarrasse des valeurs négatives comme une patate chaude.

    Ce qui est marquant quand même c’est l’usage qui est fait de la question palestinienne à toutes les sauces. La Palestine a de nombreux “amis” encombrants qui projettent leur propre frustration et malvie dans le problème palestinien et qui les pousse dans la pire version jusqu’à courir derrière une gamine de 7ans et lui planter une balle dans la tête… Je comprends le premier ministre palestinien qui a réagit en gros par un “lala saha, ansawna chwiya, yerham chikh”….

    • Qatkhal
      I agree with your point regarding the Palestinian cause. Merah and most of the self-proclaimed Al Qaida terrorists would have probably found another ’cause’ to let off their own frustration and feelings of marginalization had there been no Palestinian cause. The root of the problem is how France has dealt with its Muslim immigrants’ community. But when you consider that these terrorists are also killing people in Muslim territory, it becomes clear that the problem is more complex than that. Evidently, the Israelo-Palestinian conflict is very important from an Islamic viewpoint, The Jewish State is religious fundamentalist number 1 in the world today with countless acts of barbaric massacres. Not only that, Judaism fuses religion with race and so it is the most toxic divinely-validated mix you could possibly dream to have and yet, it continues to do as it pleases unchallenged, under protection even. There is something terribly wrong with the current World Order, more people of all ‘origins’ seem to just flip – Christians are also jumping on the bandwagon of ‘radicalization’ (Breivik) and even Bhuddism, which has a hippy-type image, has been instrumentalized to perpetrate ‘terrorist’ acts. The world is going mad and new and easily accessible technology is making this threat all the more serious.

  6. It seems that there is a third Mohamed Merah – an Afghan citizen this one! Isn’t the name ‘Mohamed Merah’ very convenient? Dodgy, dodgy.

    “All I can say is that we have this guy Mohammed Merah in our records, but he’s an Afghan citizen,” said Brig. Gen. Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar Province. “He’s certainly not French.”

    He was sent to serve his three-year sentence at the city’s Saraposa prison, said Ghulam Faruq, the chief of the detention facility, citing prison records. That is a high-security prison on Kandahar’s southern outskirts.

    “We have this name in our book,” Mr. Faruq said. “He was registered in 2007 and he was brought to the prison and he was convicted for planting bombs and I.E.D.’s inside and outside Kandahar city.”

    A spokesman for the government of Kandahar Province, Zalmai Ayoubi, said that the man was from Kandahar and that officials even knew his father’s name — Ahmad Shah, also a citizen of Afghanistan.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/world/asia/afghan-officials-deny-french-suspect-escaped-their-prison.html

    Merah sent video of killings to al-Jazeera: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/26/toulouse-shootings-mohamed-merah-video

  7. An article in today’s El Khabar (http://www.elkhabar.com/ar/monde/285063.html) saying that Merah’s family and friends deny the official version of the Toulouse shootings and claim that Mohamed Merah was used as a scapegoat. Here are the arguments presented to support this claim:

  8. – Merah was jailed in France for 18 months in 2008 – 2009 for robbery and this coincides with the period when French authorities claim he’d been to Afghanistan and Pakistan
    – A prison cell mate affirmed that Mohamed Merah was a typical ‘normal’ guy, he did pray but he also ‘watched movies’ with his prison mates and had no problem with that. He didn’t talk of Jihad, didn’t grow a beard and was only interested in earning a living and talking about his robbery adventures
    – A neighbor of Merah’s mother reported that he saw him in the week before the shootings. Merah came to visit his mother to ask for pocket money. The neighbor said he saw him with his own eyes setting-off to buy a sandwich. He deduces from this that he doesn’t believe that Mohamed Merah was the real culprit in this sordid affair.
    – Another neighbor stated that a French lady appeared on French telly, before the identity of the shooter was revealed, and said that she saw the shooter of the army officers; he was a big white tattooed guy according to her testimony.
  9. So based on all these facts, the conclusion these guys reach is that this is all a staged coup to manipulate election results.

    There are a lot of loose ends in this affair and the French have handled it typically badly (as usual).

    • Thanks for keeping this topic updated Algerianna! Love the iSlam looool. Here is an article from France Soir stating that high officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan have declared they have no records whatsoever of the presence/entry of Merah on their territory. http://www.francesoir.fr/actualite/faits-divers/afghanistan-et-pakistan-pas-de-traces-des-voyages-de-merah-200229.html

      I don’t think this story was engineered, it won’t help Sarkozy, might help the extreme right slightly but not enough for them to get a president up on the throne. It just is a typical miscarriage of justice French style, and there have been so many in the country for… well, ever. Only now, it gets immediate coverage in the media and the machine churns on.

      • Hello NG

        Well, here’s an analysis which somebody commenting on the article you posted linked to: http://mohamed-merah.blogspot.fr/

        It seems there are people who are advocating that Sarkozy and his chums have engineered this. I don’t know, the story looks fishy but I think they have simply instrumentalized a genuine murder case to serve their electoral objectives, rather than staged the entire thing (killing civilians themselves and then sticking the murders on a French citizen from Algerian origin who happens to have the same name as an Afghan jihadi). On the other hand, I don’t think Afghan or Pakistani ‘official’ sources should be trusted in such affairs (viz the Ben Laden case), given the current geopolitical conflict. It might well be that this Merah did have ties with Al Qaida jihadis. We will simply never know now. But French sources can’t be trusted either, given their record of racism and failed ‘integration’ policies.

        The truth died with Mohamed Merah.

  10. It is a scandal how French authorities are dealing with the dead corpse of Mohamed Merah, as if the way they’d dealt with him alive wasn’t enough. They wanted to have him buried in the home town of his father in Algeria (Médéa), but Algerian authorities refused on grounds of him being a French citizen and the entire affair being a French affair that Algeria has nothing to do with. Poor guy, it’s horrible when even corpses are fair political game. As if there have never been ‘white’ French criminals who were buried in French soil! Shame on France.

    http://www.france24.com/fr/20120329-mohamed-merah-algerie-rejet-inhumation-enterrement-france-obseques-toulouse-sarkozy

    Algerian Press Reactions:
    http://www.elwatan.com/actualite/les-virulentes-reactions-des-lecteurs-d-el-watan-sur-mohamed-merah-29-03-2012-164650_109.php (French)
    http://www.al-fadjr.com/ar/assatir/210105.html (Arabic)

    This comment left on the article by El Watan above seems to me to be quite a plausible reading of this affair:

    Ce Mohammed MERAH,travaillait étroitement avec les services secrets français, en terme tout court,c’était “un indicateur”. Certes, énormément d’enfants d’origine Algérienne issues de l’immigration empruntent un chemin tordu en pénétrant dans le monde de la délinquance et plus tard de la criminalité. Mohammed MERAH, qui n’a pas eu la chance d’avoir des parents exemplaires pour lui donner une bonne éducation et un suivi digne d’un père et d’une mère.Le jeune enfant a sombré dans la petite délinquance dés son jeune âge, suivi d’une délinquance galopante de grandes dimensions ( vols à main armée, braquages, casses,etc..), il a tapé sur toutes les portes pour s’en sortir, mais il a fini par être lessivé par une poignée d’intégristes qui lui garanti le paradis comme à leur habitude s’il prône le Djihad.Les services secrets français l’ont accaparé par la suite pour une bonne maîtrise de la mouvance islamique intégriste en France, en lui facilitant l’accès à un logement, le droit à la RSA ( revenu de solidarité active)alors qu’il n’avait même pas le droit à cette prestation car il n’avait que 23 ans et pour la toucher il faut avoir plus de 25 ans. Les services secrets Français suivaient et connaissaient parfaitement ces agissements et ses déplacements, il étaient en contact permanent avec lui et lui donnaient toutes les instructions à suivre. Le scénario qui a été monté par ces mêmes services ne sort pas de l’ordinaire, ils ont tout simplement choisi le bon moment pour lui ordonner d’exécuter une mission dont ils connaissaient pertinemment les conséquences, ils l’ont poussé a exécuter un crime et surtout ne soyez pas naïfs quand vous avez entendu le ministre Français de l’intérieur dire ” nous voulons le capturer vivant” mais non, ils l’ont supprimé, pour qu’il ne puisse dévoiler aucun secret à leur égard.Mohammed MERAH est décédé et sa boite de top secret est en-fouiné avec lui dans sa tombe.Pour ma part, je salue la décision du gouvernement Algérien d’avoir refusé que la dépouille de Mohammed MERAH soit enterrée en Algérie. Que l’état Français se débrouille, il a fabriqué et façonné un criminel, à lui de subir les conséquences.

  11. Pingback: On the ‘Mohamed Merah’ case « Rather Quaint Comments

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