“Mohammed Merah, once a petty criminal who liked going to nightclubs and showing off in cars, has left an indelible stain.
From crime to Islam
And the path which led ultimately to the killing spree in which he took the lives of young children, a rabbi and soldiers, has today been revealed in some detail by government officials.
Their information is based on what they call the “confession” made by Merah as police officers negotiated with him during the siege of the apartment building.
He told them his path to radical Islam began in Toulouse five years ago while serving a prison sentence for robbery.
“He said while inside [prison] he became a keen reader of the Koran,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins revealed, “and spoke about his al-Qaeda training in Waziristan [Pakistan]”.
Merah travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan on his own, according to the prosecutor, making it harder to keep him under observation.
On return to France he did not show up on any known militant Islamist network.
The large cache of weapons he obtained for the attack was apparently bought with the proceeds of another robbery.
‘Die as a mujahideen’
His violent brand of ideology is revealed in the gruesome video he recorded of the three attacks which began on 11 March.
As he shoots one of three soldiers who were murdered, he apparently says: “You kill my brothers, I kill you.”
The “brothers” is presumably a reference to the Taliban in Afghanistan, where French troops make up part of the Nato forces in the country.
Like many militants inspired by the radical ideology of al-Qaeda and other groups, Merah seems to have believed he would be rewarded if he was killed.
He’s quoted by police negotiators as saying he wanted “to die as a mujahideen with a weapon in his hands and he would therefore go to paradise. Whereas if it was policemen who were killed, for them it would be too bad.”
Merah ended up being shot through the head by a police sniper as he tried to escape from the apartment by jumping out of a window.
He did die with a weapon in his hand – a Colt 45.”