Video pictures have emerged of the young man who claims to have carried out Monday’s murderous attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in southern France, and who says he killed three soldiers.
French television broadcast the images saying they were of Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old French national of Algerian origin, now besieged by elite anti-terrorist police.
He has told negotiators that he had accepted a mission from al-Qaeda, adding he had pinpointed two specific police officers and another soldier to attack.
If what he said is true, his plans were foiled by police, who moved on the apartment block in a quiet residential area of Toulouse in the early hours of Wednesday.
There was a brief firefight and a number of officers were wounded.
“He’s showing no regret, other than wanting more time to to kill more victims. He even boasts that he brought France to its knees,” said Paris prosecutor François Molins, part of the anti-terrorist unit leading the investigation.
Merah had been convicted 15 times during his youth, including on charges of violence.
The lawyer who represented him spoke of the youngster’s courteous behaviour.
Christian Etelin said: “You could think of Mohamed Merah as a contradictory person, someone very complex. He’s both. He is the man I know but also someone who has behaved in a horrible manner — or is thought to have behaved in that manner — as one is presuming he’s guilty.”
Police are examining a scooter they believe was used in the attacks and officers say they found a cache of arms hidden in a car parked outside Merah’s building.
Last year he was questioned by French intelligence after returning from a trip to Afghanistan where authorities believe he was radicalised.