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Gunman’s brother ‘knew nothing’ about attacks

A lawyer says a Frenchman suspected of helping his brother plot attacks against Jewish school children and paratroopers knew nothing about what was going on.

A French judge filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges yesterday against Abdelkader Merah, whose younger brother Mohamed claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Abdelkader is in custody and has not spoken publicly. His lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens yesterday denied reports that Abdelkader was proud of his brother’s actions.

Investigators looking into France’s worst terror attacks in years believe Abdelkader helped prepare the killings and are investigating whether the brothers were linked to an international network or worked on their own.

Mohamed Merah, 23, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour standoff with police, he died last Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.

Since then, attention has focused on his older brother Abdelkader, who was handed preliminary charges yesterday of complicity to murder and theft, and involvement in a terrorist enterprise, prosecutors said. Detained last week, he will remain in custody pending further investigation.

Preliminary charges under French law mean there is strong reason to believe a crime was committed, but allow magistrates more time to investigate.

Authorities suspect Abdelkader had a role in acquiring his younger brother’s arsenal and financing his trips to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Mohamed Merah claimed allegiance to al-Qaida and told police he travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan for training.

Abdelkader was questioned several years ago about alleged links to a network sending Toulouse-area youths to Iraq, but no action was brought against him at the time.

Prosecutor François Molins said the inquiry is also looking at anyone else who could have been involved in planning the attacks.

The brother’s girlfriend, Yamina Mesbah, was held then released early yesterday without charge. The Merah brothers’ mother was released on Friday night.

The girlfriend denied any involvement in what happened and said she was shocked by the killings, her lawyer Guy Debuisson said.


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