The terror of Toulouse

Over the past several weeks – every four days since March 11, to be precise – a mysterious gunman on a motorcycle has shot and killed French soldiers of Arab extraction in the city of Toulouse.  Three paratroopers are dead, while a fourth is hospitalized in critical condition.  The killer was extremely meticulous, leaving ammo clips scrubbed of DNA at his crime scenes.

Initial speculation that the scooter shooter was some sort of right-wing madman, driven around the bend by the impending French presidential election, ended when the gunman capped off his reign of terror by rolling up to a Jewish school and opened fire on the students, killing three children and a rabbi, and wounding another 17-year-old student.  According to the New York Times, he was filming his actions with a video camera strapped to his chest while he slaughtered his victims.  France went to a “scarlet” security alert status, one step down from a national state of emergency, and guards were posted at both Muslim and Jewish establishments across Toulouse.

French police tracked the suspect, Mohammed Merah, to his apartment, where he remains holed up on Wednesday morning, after wounding three police officers in a firefight.  The area has been cleared, and negotiators have been brought in.  Merah’s brother has been arrested as a possible accessory to his crimes, while his mother has been brought to the standoff, in order to help talk him into surrendering.  There hasn’t been much communication from the suspect during the past few hours.

It turns out that Merah, a Toulouse native of Algerian heritage, has been under surveillance for years, due to his fundamentalist views.  The Associated Press says both Merah and his brother are Salafist Muslims.  Merah reportedly told French authorities that he killed the soldiers to protest French involvement abroad, and murdered the Jewish schoolchildren to “avenge” the death of Palestinian children.  He was in contact with his first paratrooper victim by email before he launched his attacks, after the soldier responded to a classified ad Merah placed to sell a scooter.  Police were able to use those emails to identify the killer.

Bloomberg News provides a little more background on the suspect:

The man, who was born in Toulouse, had been working at an auto-repair shop, a job he quit a few weeks ago, Gueant said. Arrested for several petty crimes in the Toulouse area, he was never associated with violent acts, Christian Etelin, a lawyer who represented him in some of the cases, said in an interview on BFM TV.

“He was always polite and courteous,” he said. “It’s hard to reconcile that with a hardened, radicalized criminal.”

Merah tossed out the gun used in all of his murders when the standoff began, but he has many more, and was reportedly planning further attacks at the time of the raid.  He claims ties to al-Qaeda, calls himself a “mujahedeen” freedom fighter, and has spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The Pakistani government claims to be unable to find any record of his visits. 

Great care has been taken to safeguard against the anti-Muslim backlash that perpetually threatens to erupt in the wake of these isolated incidents, as documented by the New York Times:

It remained unclear how the killings may affect the election, which is only weeks away. Nor was it clear if they will stoke anti-Muslim rhetoric among some politicians and voters — Muslims complain widely of feeling vilified by some elements, on the right in particular, and the anti-immigration far right has been gaining unprecedented popularity in recent months. It is also possible the deaths could cause a calming of the political discourse.

President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Jewish and Muslim leaders in Paris on Wednesday morning and called for restraint and solidarity among the populace. “We must be united,” he said in a brief address. “We must yield neither to easy falsehoods nor to vengeance.”

Before meeting with Mr. Sarkozy, Richard Prasquier, the national head of Crif, the Jewish organization, said: “It is absolutely excluded that we confuse this character — and the Islamist, jihadist, Al -Qaeda-linked movement he represents — and the Islam of France, which is a religion like all other religions.”

“These acts are in total contradiction with the foundations of this religion,” said Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, who also met with Mr. Sarkozy.

(Emphasis mine.)  “It is also possible the deaths could cause a calming of the political discourse?”  Have any of the previous “isolated incidents” across the world produced that result?

To his credit, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the attacks, declaring “it’s time for criminals to stop exploiting the name of Palestine through their terrorist actions.”  To her eternal shame, the European Union’s foreign minister, Baroness Ashton, parroted Merah’s propaganda word-for-word when addressing Palestinian activists on Monday, as transcribed by the UK Telegraph:

“We remember young people who have been killed in all sorts of terrible circumstances – the Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives,” she said.

Over 20 hours after the row broke out, Lady Ashton’s office produced an amended transcript of her speech, showing that she had also made a reference to Israeli victims of Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza in the city of Sderot in southern Israel.

That wasn’t enough of an “amendment” to mollify the outraged Israelis, who have called upon Lady Ashton to withdraw her comments in full – and, in the case of Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, to resign her post at the EU.

For those keeping score, Israel civilians have been enduring the worst round of rocket attacks from Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in the past six months, with over 200 rockets fired in March.  A cease-fire was finally called last week, after the Israeli Defense Force used air strikes to take out the rocket launchers.  At least 25 people were killed in these air strikes, which will give Lady Ashton and other useful idiots something else to compare to the random murder of school children by motorcycle-riding terrorists with cameras strapped to their chests.  Such equivocation is an essential weapon in the arsenal of anti-civilization.