French gunman was shot 20 times in last stand

France’s prime minister yesterday rejected accusations his government could have prevented the multiple murders by an Islamic militant who was supposedly being watched by intelligence services.

An autopsy carried out on the gunman who went on a killing spree showed he suffered about 20 bullet wounds, although only two were fatal.

Officials said Moham-med Merah, 23, was killed by a bullet wound to the left temple and another to the abdomen. The other injuries were mainly to his arms and legs.

Merah, who claimed links with al Qaeda, is believed to have killed seven people in three attacks in and around Toulouse.

He died in a gunfight on Thursday after a 32-hour stand-off with police who said they fired in self-defence.

Meanwhile, prime minister François Fillon said security officials knew Merah was a radical Islamist who had visited Afghanistan. However, he insisted there was no reason to suspect he was planning an atrocity.

The intelligence services “did their job perfectly well. They identified Mohammed Merah when he made his trips”, he told French radio.

Intelligence agents “watched him long enough to come to the conclusion that there was no element, no indication, that this was a dangerous man who would one day pass from words to acts”.

Police yesterday prolonged the detention of the mother and brother of the self-proclaimed al Qaeda member who said he carried out his crimes to avenge Palestinian children and punish France for sending troops to Afghanistan.

Police said Merah’s brother, Abdelkader, is himself a radical Islamist, and that traces of what could be an explosive material were found in his car. His girlfriend was also kept in detention.

Prosecutors said the first murder in Merah’s spree was committed after he contacted his victim, a 30-year-old army officer, using his mother’s computer.


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