NEWS

Gunman may have filmed shooting at Jewish school

03/20/2012 06:52 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT

A gunman who killed four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, may have filmed the attack, the interior minister said Tuesday, as hundreds of police combed southern France for the killer, suspected in three other deaths.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the attacker was "wearing around his neck an apparatus" that could be used to film and post video online. He said this gave investigators new clues to the killer's "profile," though he admitted they don't appear to be close to an arrest.

Gueant described the suspect as "someone very cold, very determined, very much a master of his movements, and by consequence, very cruel."

Asked whether the gunman recorded the scene, Gueant responded, "We can imagine that." But he added that authorities have not yet found any images of the killings online.

A "monster" is on the loose in France, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday, vowing to track him down.

The terror threat level was raised to scarlet across a swath of southern France — the highest level since the four-point system was created in 2003.

Same weapon

An unidentified assailant opened fire at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday, killing a rabbi and his two sons and the daughter of the school principal — the deadliest school shooting in the country. Authorities say one of the same weapons was used in the killings of three French paratroopers last week.

Authorities said the weapon involved, a powerful .45-calibre handgun, was used in shootings in southwestern France, also involving an assailant who fled by motorbike. Those attacks left three people dead — military paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin.

The motorbike — a black Yamaha scooter — was stolen in Toulouse five days before the first shooting. Its number plate was picked up by closed-circuit TV cameras at the school, the BBC reported, citing police sources.

The dead were identified as Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old rabbi and teacher of religion, who was originally from Jerusalem, and his two sons, aged four and five. The fourth person killed was a seven-year-old girl, Myriam Monsonego, daughter of the head teacher. She died in her father's arms, the BBC reported.

Moment of silence

Wails and weeping filled the air Tuesday as the school held a ceremony to honour the victims, including the rabbi, who taught at the school. Several young men pressed their heads against the rear window of one of the hearses as it drove away.

The rabbi's widow covered her face and held her remaining child, a one-year-old daughter, dressed in a bright pink dress.

The widow's uncle, Marc Alloul, described how the girl woke up in the middle of the night after the killings, calling out, "Papa! Papa!"

Other schools around France held a moment of silence to honour the victims of the shootings.

Sarkozy, who has played up nationalist themes in his bid for a second term in upcoming elections, sought to stress the overall horror of the crime.

"The children are exactly like you," Sarkozy told junior high school students in Paris after joining them for the moment of silence. "That could have happened here."

"There are beings who have no respect for life. When you grab a little girl to put a bullet in her head, without leaving her any chance, you are a monster. An anti-Semitic monster, but first of all a monster."

Sarkozy meets with Jewish, Muslim communities

Sarkozy also met with members of France's Jewish and Muslim community. France has the largest population of Jews and Muslims in western Europe.

Concerns mounted about a suspected racist and anti-Semitic serial killer.

The shootings echoed across a nation that has been focused on an upcoming presidential race in which issues about religious minorities and race have gained prominence. Sarkozy, who has struck a nationalist line in his campaigning, raised the terrorism alert level in the region to its highest level, while also noting a possible racist motive.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the attack.

"It's too early to say what the precise background for this act of murder is, but I think that we can't rule out that there was a strong, murderous anti-Semitic motive here," Netanyahu said.

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