Toulouse shooting suspect’s standoff against police continues

(JTA) — The standoff between Mohammed Merah, the main suspect in the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, and French police stretched into its 20th hour.

The standoff began at 3 a.m. Wednesday outside the Toulouse home of Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian descent who claims ties to al-Qaida. Merah reportedly has been known to French intelligence for many years. He had told police he would turn himself in at night.

French police surrounded Merah’s home in the morning. Merah, in contact with the police, reportedly had agreed to turn himself later in the day before abruptly cutting off communication with police. The suspect’s brother and mother reportedly were arrested, and two police officers were injured in a shootout outside the home, according to reports.

The Ozar Hatorah school reopened Wednesday for the first time since the attack, in which a man riding a motorbike opened fire Monday outside the school where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack.

Thousands attended the funeral of the victims on Wednesday morning at Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery.

"Your grief, your pain is ours too," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said at the funeral. "All of France is in shock."

On Tuesday, three former French soldiers accused of having neo-Nazi ties who had been suspected of possible involvement in the shooting attack were questioned and released by French police.

Forensic tests found that the weapon used in the attack at the school was the same one used in a pair of fatal shooting attacks last week targeting off-duty French soldiers in and near Toulouse. The shootings, which also were committed by a gunman on a motorbike, left three soldiers dead and another seriously wounded. The soldiers who were shot were of North African or Caribbean background.

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