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Official: Gunman may have filmed acts

March 20, 2012 at 7:40 AM   |   Comments

TOULOUSE, France, March 20 (UPI) -- The gunman who shot and killed four people outside a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, appeared to be filming his actions, French authorities said Tuesday.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said surveillance footage from the school's security system indicated what seemed to be a video camera strapped to the assailant's chest as he opened fire Monday on adults and children, killing a rabbi, his two sons and another child, The New York Times reported.

Even though the government is on its highest terrorism alert and authorities engaged in a broad, high-profile search for the assailant, Gueant said little was known about the man who arrived and fled on a motorcycle, his face hidden by a helmet.

Authorities are investigating the possibility neo-Nazis were behind Monday's shooting spree, the third deadly attack on people from minority groups in southern France in eight days, CNN said.

Authorities said the gun used in Monday's attack at Ozar Hatorah school was the same weapon used last week in two shooting incidents in which three soldiers died. In those instances, the lone gunman also arrived and fled by motorcycle.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the shooting a "national tragedy" and ordered a moment of silence be observed Tuesday at schools across France. Representatives from France's Jewish and Muslim communities were to meet with Sarkozy Tuesday, CNN reported.

Sarkozy, who went to Toulouse Monday, said he had sent gendarmes and riot police to guard all Jewish and Muslim schools and religious facilities in the region until the killer is found.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon ordered heightened security at schools and religious buildings across the country.

Sarkozy, who suspended his re-election campaign until Wednesday, said it appeared "obvious" the attack was anti-Semitic.

At the school Monday, he said: "Barbarity, savagery, cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win."

Socialist Party presidential front-runner Francois Hollande also visited the school, condemning the "terrible, horrible drama" and calling on France to unite.

No one has claimed responsibility for the three attacks.

Officials identified the victims as Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, a religious instructor at the school; his sons, Arye, 6, and Gabriel, 3; and Miriam Monsonego, 8, daughter of the school principal, Yaacov Monsonego. The bodies of the four victims of the shooting in France will be flown to Israel for burial in accordance to the families' wishes, the Times said.

The gunman "shot at everything he could see, children and adults, and some children were chased into the school," Valet said.

A 17-year-old boy was seriously wounded in Monday's attack.

The school's surveillance footage indicated the man pursued an 8-year-old girl, his last victim, into the concrete courtyard, seizing her by her hair, said Nicole Yardeni, leader of the regional branch of the Council of Jewish Institutions in France, who viewed the footage. The killer's gun seemed to jam, so the killer changed weapons while still holding the girl, then shot her in the head and left.

"It is unbearable that someone could dehumanize children to this point," Yardeni said.

Anti-terrorism magistrates from Paris were to take charge of the investigation into all three shooting incidents, the Times said.

"We are faced with an individual who targets his victims specifically," said Elisabeth Allannic, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, which is handling the investigation. "He targets his victims for what they represent."

Police plan to flood the Toulouse area with personnel, anti-terrorism experts and cyber-police, Le Figaro reported. Officials said their task was difficult because the man's black Yamaha motorcycle gave him the ability to move quickly.

Expressions of condemnation and condolences were voiced by leaders of countries, non-government organizations and religions.

In the United States, police departments in New York, Washington and San Francisco said they would increase patrols of synagogues and Jewish institutions, CNN reported.

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said law enforcement agencies fear someone may make a copy-cat attack, but he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg stressed they had no "specific" information to indicate an active threat in New York.

"Just because there's something that happens there, doesn't mean there are more threats here," Bloomberg said. "But we take everything very seriously."

Toulouse has one of the largest Jewish communities in France, with many of Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian heritage. France has the largest Jewish community in western Europe, estimated at 500,000 to 700,000 as well as its largest Muslim population, at about 5 million.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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