Photo: AP/Bruno Martin
The gunman who killed seven people may have been an informant for France’s intelligence services, as reported by Alastair Jamieson at msnbc.com.Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, shot dead three Muslim soldiers as well as three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school before plunging to his death after a 23-hour standoff with police in an apartment in Toulouse.
The speculation about his connection to French intelligence began when Yves Bonnet — former head of France’s counter-espionage service DST — told the Toulouse newspaper La Dépêche du Midi that Merah passed information on to the domestic French intelligence agency DCRI (i.e. the French equivalent of the FBI):
“He was known to the DCRI, not especially because he was an Islamist, but because he had a correspondent in domestic intelligence,” Bonnet said. “When you have a correspondent, it’s not completely innocent. This is not trivial.” (Translation from RT)
Bernard Squarcini, the director of the DCRI , acknowledged that Merah was interviewed in November 2011 by the DCRI — because the agency “wanted to receive explanations about his trip to Afghanistan” — but strongly denied that Merah was an informant.
A senior American officer in the southern province of Kandahar in Afghanistan told the French newspaper Le Monde that Merah’s passport application included trips to Israel, then Syria, Iraq and Jordan.
Before Merah was arrested in Kandahar on Nov. 22, 2010, handed over to NATO forces and subsequently sent back to France, he had traveled to the Indian consulate in Kandahar to obtain a visa to visit the country.
In 2011 he spent two months in the Pakistani tribal areas of North and South Warziristan, a crossroads of the Taliban and jihadist insurgencies in the region.
Another disturbing factor on the [movement] of Mohamed Merah remains to be clarified: its presence in Iran “twice” according to one French military source in Afghanistan. Questioned by the World on Wednesday, the DCRI, responsible for counter-espionage and counter-terrorism, has denied this stay.
Le Monde also quoted Squarcini as saying that Merah asked for a local DCRI agent by name while he was holed-up in the apartment surrounded by police.
Squarcini told Le Monde that Merah shocked the female agent by saying: “Anyway, I was going to call you to say I had some tip-offs for you, but actually I was going to [kill] you.”
According to The Independent, it was this agent – understood to be a young woman of North African origin – who had interrogated Merah when he returned from the two-month visit to Pakistan in November.
Also from the London-based newspaper:
Le Canard Enchaîné newspaper reported yesterday that Merah and his family were bugged by the DCRI from March to November last year. The bugging ended abruptly, Le Canard said, at about the time of the future killer’s meeting with the DCRI agent in November. However, the body which authorizes telephone surveillance said later that the bugging began in November and was dropped in February because it revealed nothing important.
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