Tuesday, March 20, 2012
One of the biggest manhunts in recent French history is under way after four people were shot dead at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died.
The same gun and the same stolen scooter were used in all three attacks, sources close to the investigation say.
Thousands of people marched through the streets Paris on Monday evening in memory of the victims.
All schools in France will observe a minute's silence on Tuesday morning at 11:00 (10:00 GMT).
Investigations are pursuing two main lines of inquiry - an Islamist motive or the far right.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who flew to Toulouse after the attack, described it as a "national tragedy". He said a single person had carried out all three attacks and that an "anti-Semitic motive" seemed obvious.
Guards are to be posted outside all faith-based schools, as well as all Jewish and Muslim religious buildings, he said.
Mr Sarkozy has also placed south-west France on the highest level of terrorism alert.'Loathsome'
A teacher and three children were shot dead at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, and a teenage boy was seriously injured.
The shootings took place as parents were taking their children to the school on Monday.
"This man alighted from his moped and, as he was outside the school, he shot at everybody who was near him, children or adults," local prosecutor Michel Valet told journalists.
The scooter - a black Yamaha - was stolen in Toulouse five days before the first shooting. Its number plate was picked up by closed-circuit TV cameras at the school, police sources said.
The dead were Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old rabbi and teacher of religion originally from Jerusalem, and his two sons, aged three and six.
The fourth person killed was a seven-year-old girl, Myriam Monsonego, daughter of the head teacher. She died in her father's arms.
Mourners in Toulouse gathered at the school for an overnight vigil, while in Paris, thousands took part in a silent march to show their sympathy for the victims. There was also a remembrance service at the Nazareth synagogue in the French capital.
All the dead were dual French-Israeli nationals and will be buried in Israel, the Israeli foreign ministry said.
A 17-year-old boy was seriously hurt. Initially, the killer used a 9mm gun, but when it jammed, he switched to a .45 calibre weapon.
Police say the .45 was the same gun used to kill three soldiers in two separate shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week. All three were of North African or Caribbean origin.
The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says not since the early 1980s have there been lethal attacks like this in France on Jewish targets. And even then, children were never the primary victims, he says.
All the candidates in the French presidential election have suspended campaigning.
Mr Sarkozy said his campaign would remain suspended until Wednesday at the earliest, when he is due to attend the soldiers' funerals.
As well as Mr Sarkozy, opposition Socialist candidate Francois Hollande visited Toulouse to offer his condolences. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen called on the authorities to do everything to prevent another such attack.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "a loathsome murder of Jews, which included small children" and said an anti-Semitic motive could not be ruled out.