Photo: AP/Bruno Martin
The French city of Toulouse was in “lockdown” this morning after three children and a female Hebrew teacher were shot dead outside a Jewish high school.Unconfirmed reports from France Info radio said two of the victims were aged 3 and 6, and were the children of the teacher, aged 30. The third child, 10, was the daughter of the school’s headmaster. A fifth person, a teenager, is understood to have been seriously injured.
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Witnesses said a man opened fire at 7:55 am on a group of people waiting at a pick-up point outside the private Ozar Hatorah school, in the Croix-Daurade neighbourhood, before fleeing on a black motorcycle, the BFM news channel reported.
French media reports said the city was in “lockdown,” while police searched for the shooter. The street, rue Jules Dalou, was immediately cordoned off, and French Interior Minister Claude Gueant ordered security to be tightened around all French Jewish schools.
Citing information received by France’s Europe 1 radio, Le Parisienne reported that the attacker was armed with two guns, one of which was an 11.43mm automatic pistol.
This is the same calibre weapon used in two similar shootings a week ago against military personnel in Toulouse and nearby Montauban, which killed three soldiers and wounded a fourth.
The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, along with Gueant, said he was travelling to Toulouse Monday. He told French radio: “This is a terrible tragedy that has affected the entire French population.”
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Opposition Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande was also on his way to the site to express “solidarity” with France’s Jewish community, while right wing National Front candidate Marine Le Pen urged the authorities to make every effort to catch the perpetrator.
Gilles Bernheim, the Chief Rabbi of France, said he was horrified by the shooting. “I am bruised body and soul … I am terribly upset and will go immediately to Toulouse.”
Israeli media interrupted regular programming to provide details of the attack, while a spokesman for the Israeli foreign affairs ministry said Israel was relying on Paris “to shed light” on the tragedy, France’s TF1 news channel reported.
The Conference of European Rabbis, a confederation of Jewish leaders in dozens of European countries, described the school shooting as an “act of barbarism” and promised to build more schools and synagogues.
“If there are people who want to scare the Jewish community, our answer is that we will not let ourselves be intimidated,” CER president, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said.
In a statement, the French anti-terrorism prosecutor, Francois Molins, said he had opened murder investigations into the three shootings against school and military targets.
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