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Byline: David Collins

AN al-Qaeda gunman suspected of shooting dead seven people boasted to police yesterday that he had "brought France to its knees".

Around 300 armed police - including some of the country's top snipers - last night had his ground-floor flat in Toulouse surrounded.

Mohammed Merah, 24, was still holed up inside with a fearsome array of weaponry.

It's thought he's the man who killed a teacher and three pupils at a Jewish school in the city. Their funerals were held in Jerusalem yesterday.

Three paratroopers were also killed in a wave of attacks in southern France in recent days.

The terrorist bragged to the police negotiators that his only regret was not killing more people.

He phoned a French TV station vowing to put homemade video footage of the killings on the internet.

A police source said Merah had "told investigators he had decided to kill a soldier in Toulouse yesterday morning and had already identified the victim".

During a failed raid on his flat yesterday morning, the gunman shouted "I can see you!" at police before opening fire.

Three elite officers were wounded, one shot in the knee, another on the shoulder and the third, who was shot in the chest, was saved only by his bullet-proof vest.

Merah threw a pistol from a window in exchange for a "communication device" but still has an AK-47 and an Uzi sub-machinegun.

The prosecutor handling the case, Francois Molins, said Merah had been to Afghanistan twice and had been trained in Waziristan.

Merah - who was known to French intelligence - is said to have told police the killings were to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and because of French involvement in Afghanistan.

Molins said: "He has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people, and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees."

The gunman had already identified another soldier and two police officers he wished to kill, Molins said.

Two hours before the raid, Merah spoke to French journalist Ebba Kalondo, who said: "He said he belonged to al-Qaeda, that what he had done was only the beginning."


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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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