Toulouse shooter dead or alive?
PARIS - French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Thursday it was not clear if the besieged suspected shooter in Toulouse was still alive because police had "no contact" with him during the night.
The suspect, named by police as Mohamed Merah and a self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda follower, said he wanted "to die weapons in hand," Gueant said on RTL radio.
"We have one priority: to take him alive so that he can surrender to face justice. We hope he is still alive," Gueant said, noting that it was "quite strange that he did not react" when police exploded a series of charges overnight to get his attention.
"We heard two shots, we don't know what they were," he added.
"Despite redoubled efforts throughout the night, there has been no contact with him," he said.
He also defended law enforcement bodies that have come under increasing fire for not having intercepted Merah, who is suspected of killing seven people and has claimed to have been trained by Al-Qaeda on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
"The DCRI (domestic intelligence agency) tracks a lot of people who are involved in Islamist radicalism. Expressing ideas... is not enough to bring someone before justice," he said.
He said that there had never been any "criminal tendencies" in Islamist radicals in the Toulouse area and no indication that any attacks were being prepared.
Officials have said Merah acted alone and Gueant said it was extremely difficult to fight against "an isolated individual".
"These so-called lone wolves are formidable opponents," he said.