Police defend handling of Toulouse siege

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Police defend handling of Toulouse siege

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The French police team that shot dead the Toulouse gunman has defended its actions, having drawn heavy criticism in the wake of Thursday’s assault.

Officers said they had no option but to open fire on Mohammed Merah, who officials say confessed to shooting dead seven people including three children in recent weeks.

Security experts and politicians in France and abroad have questioned how Merah went undetected for so long and why police failed to apprehend him.

The commander of the elite RAID unit that carried out the operation said they had tried to flood Merah’s apartment with tear gas.

But during that attempt, the 23-year-old pulled out his weapons and started firing.

“He decided to move towards us and placed his hand on the balcony to shoot at some of my men. It was then that we chose to neutralise him,” said Amaury de Hautecloque in an interview with the France 2 channel.

Police are continuing to question Merah’s relatives over his extremist links.

His mother, his brother Abdelkader and his brother’s girlfriend and all in custody.

It is believed that Mohammed and Abdelkader were both members of the Knights of Pride, a radical Islamist group.

French authorities say Merah told them he committed the murders of three French soldiers, as well as those of a Jewish man and three Jewish children, in revenge for the killing of Palestinian children and for French military involvement in Afghanistan.