French gunman killed after 30-hour siege (Lead)

March 23rd, 2012 - 12:31 am ICT by IANS  

Paris, March 22 (IANS) A gunman suspected of shooting dead seven people in France was killed Thursday after police stormed into his aparment to end a 30-hour siege.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant confirmed the 24-year-old suspect, linked to Al Qaeda, was killed following an exchange of fire with the police.

Mohamed Merah was hiding in the bathroom when police stormed into the apartment around 11.00 a.m. where he had been holed up for about 30 hours, reported Xinhua.

“Mohammed Merah then jumped out of the window with a gun in his hand continuing to shoot. He was found dead on the ground,” the minister said, adding that “during the last conversation he told us he had changed his attitude and doesn’t fear death.”

According to Gueant, two policemen were injured in the operation.

Police had been trying to capture him alive.

Merah was allegedly responsible for the death of three French paratroopers and four Jewish people, including three children, in the past two weeks in the southern cities of Toulouse and Montauban.

Before his death, he told a senior producer with France24 TV on phone that the reasons behind the killings were to protest against the French law enacted last year banning the Muslim veil and France’s military participation in Afghanistan.

Merah had initially offered to give himself up to the police, but said later that he would “die with weapons in hand”.

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said the gunman, who planned to kill two other policemen and a soldier, boasted that he brought “France to its knees” and also regreted that he did not kill “more people”.

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