French police in day-long standoff with suspected serial killer

(AP) - In a tense, daylong standoff, French riot police demanded the surrender Wednesday of a gunman whom they say boasted of shooting seven victims

TOULOUSE, France - (AP) - In a tense, daylong standoff, French riot police demanded the surrender Wednesday of a gunman whom they say boasted of shooting seven victims in an al-Qaida-linked terror spree. Hundreds of police cordoned off streets around an apartment building in the southwestern city of Toulouse after a pre-dawn raid to arrest the suspect, Mohamed Merah, erupted into a firefight. Three police were wounded and negotiations with the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent dragged on for hours. Prosecutor Francois Molins said Merah was a self-taught radical Salafi who expressed glee at killing three Jewish children, a rabbi and three French paratroopers. Merah had been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan, he said. In the negotiations, Merah "expresses no regret, only that he didn't have time to have more victims. And he even bragged, he said, of bringing France to its knees," the prosecutor said. Merah was planning to kill another soldier imminently, so police had to launch the 3 a.m. raid, Molins said. Late Wednesday, Interior Minister Claude Gueant told France-2 TV that Merah planned to turn himself in at night "to be more discreet." Police turned off nearby street lights. The gunman's brother and mother were detained early in the day. Molins said the brother, Abdelkader, had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq. French authorities - like others in Europe - have long been concerned about "lone-wolf" attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who self-radicalize online, since they are harder to find and track. Molins' comments, however, marked the first time a radical Islamic motive has been ascribed to killings in France in years. Merah told police he belonged to al-Qaida and wanted to take revenge for Palestinian children killed in the Middle East, Gueant said, adding the gunman was also angry about French military intervention abroad.

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