An al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people in France died on Thursday after jumping out of a window of his apartment, where he had been holed up for some 30 hours in a stand-off with the police, interior minister Claude Gueant said.
Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, had been silent for hours but opened fire on special forces who stormed the building and was killed in the ensuing gunbattle.
“At the moment when a video probe was sent into the bathroom, the killer came out of the bathroom, firing with extreme violence,” Gueant told reporters at the scene, adding that Merah was firing several guns at once.
“In the end, Mohamed Merah jumped from the window with his gun in his hand, continuing to fire. He was found dead on the ground,” he said.
Two policemen were wounded in the assault, one “fairly seriously”, police sources said.
Sustained bursts of gunfire were heard outside the apartment shortly after sources said the police were moving “rapidly” to end the siege.
Three loud explosions near the apartment were heard shortly before the police said the officers had moved in, and an ambulance was seen passing through a security cordon.
Merah had been holed up since overnight Wednesday after being tracked down by the police as the main suspect in a wave of shootings that killed seven people, including three soldiers and three Jewish children.
Gueant had earlier said the police had lost contact with Merah but that he had told authorities he wanted “to die, weapons in hand”. Prosecutors said Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, had fought off several police assaults on the flat and bragged to negotiators of having been trained by al Qaeda.
“He expressed no regret apart from not having had enough time to kill more victims and even boasted of having brought France to its knees,” France’s chief anti-terror prosecutor, Francois Molins, said.
The drama began in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday. After two policemen were wounded when they attempted to raid the apartment, authorities evacuated the building, turned off electricity in the neighbourhood and settled in for the siege.