UPDATE: It appears that Defense Minister Ehud Barak reads the Jewish Press website, because in an interview with IDF Radio he said Thursday morning that the French establishment, from the president on down, was dealing with the standoff. “They don’t need our suggestions,” he said.
As things stand this morning, the last exciting thing that happened since the siege started with a short exchange of gunfire between the cops and Muslim gunman Merah, three explosions were heard around midnight from the apartment building in Toulouse where Merah, suspected of murdering Jewish children and their father has been holed up.
At that point, the city’s deputy mayor Jean-Pierre Havrin said that an assault on the apartment was in progress, after the place had been surrounded by police for nearly 24 hours. The blasts were followed by flashing orange lights. “Negotiations have finished and the assault has begun,” he said.
Then BBC and Sky reporters described seeing Police moving the gunman Mohammed Merah under a blanket to a waiting car and driving away. It appeared like the rather subdued end to a harrowing and very long story.
But then French Interior Minister Claude Guéant said the detonations were intended to intimidate the gunman into surrendering.
Now the news media are still waiting outside the same apartment building in Toulouse, with a growing suspicion that French Police have been using them to get at other members of the gunman’s cell – perhaps looking to lull the latter into a false sense of safety while they interrogate their captive.
But alas, nothing. Mohammed Merah is still holed up in his apartment, and French police have not taken him out. At this point it’s not clear they’ve even tried, besides with the “intimidating” explosions. It may be that the French police are waiting until Merah falls asleep from exhaustion.
Other theories put forward is that Mohammed Merah may have committed suicide, which is why he didn’t react to the explosions.
This is what else we know so far:
Police suspect Mohammed Merah, 23, of murdering four people at Ozar HaTorah school last Monday and three soldiers the week before.
Police surrounded Merah’s block after two officers were shot when they tried to get into his flat in early dawn Wednesday. They say Merah is heavily armed with a Kalashnikov rifle, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades.
French prosecutor provided a clearer picture of Mohammed Merah, giving background and the circumstances of his identification as the killer:
He is on Welfare.
He was arrested on 15 occasions in France.
Four weapons were found in a car under his possession: two sub machine guns and two shotguns.
Explosives found in brother’s car, and Police say the brother was heavily involved in the crimes,
During the siege, Merah shouted at Police that he belonged to al-Qaeda. He then demurred: “I don’t have the soul of a martyr, I want to stay alive.”
Merah admitted to the killings and said he planned to kill again. this morning, targeting two military servicemen he had identified. He also planned to gun down police officers.
He expressed no regret and said it was too bad he didn’t take out more victims. He expressed pride that he had “brought France to its knees.”