French CRS police block a street during a raid on a house to arrest suspects in the killings of three children and a rabbi on Monday at a Jewish school, in Toulouse March 21, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
French officials are denying reports that a suspected al-Qaida killer was arrested after a standoff in southwestern France.
Police surrounded an apartment block in Toulouse Wednesday to arrest 24-year-old Mohammed Merah, who is wanted in three separate shootings, including the point-blank execution of three children at a Jewish school on Monday.
An early morning raid resulted in a shooutout that left three officers wounded. French Interior Minister Claude Gueant, who is on the scene, said Merah is barricaded on the ground floor and armed with an AK-47, an uzi machine pistol and multiple handguns. Earlier, he gave up one pistol in exchange for a cellphone.
Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, is also suspected in the murders of three French soldiers shot in separate incidents last week.
Police linked the gun in the school shooting to the one used in the murders of three French soldiers the previous week.
Gueant said Merah was under surveillance since the first attacks, which were in retaliation for French military intervention abroad. The self-professed "Islamic warrior"was among 400 prisoners to escape an Afghan jail in 2008 where has was serving a three-year sentence for planting bombs.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy attended a ceremony for the slain soldiers Monday while Foreign Minister Alain Juppe flew to Israel as the four victims of the school shooting were buried in Jerusalem.