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2:30am UK, Tuesday March 20, 2012
A manhunt is continuing in southern France following a shooting at a Jewish school that left a teacher and three young children dead.
French police are now convinced that the attacks at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse are linked to two separate shootings over the past 10 days in the region.
I said ‘bonjour’ to Mr Sadler like normal then he went out into the school entrance. I heard the shots and I turned around and saw him on the ground.
The man who died has been named as religious education teacher Jonathan Sandler, an Israeli-French dual citizen originally from Jerusalem who moved to France last September.
Mr Sadler was killed along with his two sons, Gabriel, three, and Arieh, six, and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, thought to be the daughter of the school’s head teacher.
A 17-year-old boy was also seriously injured in the shooting, which was carried out by a gunman riding a scooter.
The attack bore strong similarities to two shootings in the same region earlier this month.
Jewish teacher, Jonathan Sandler, one of the four victims killed
Three soldiers were shot last Thursday by a gunman on a scooter at a cashpoint outside their Barracks in Montauban, 30 miles north of Toulouse.
Two members of the 17th Airborne Combat Engineering Regiment, Corporal Abel Chennouf, 24, and Private Mohammed Legouad, 26, were killed. Both were of North African origin.
A third paratrooper, 28-year-old Corporal Loic Liber, of Caribbean origin, was left in a coma.
Witnesses said the motorcyclist walked up to the men, who were in uniform but unarmed, and opened fire at point blank range.
He apparently had time to turn over one of the wounded men who was trying to crawl away and fire three more shots before returning to his scooter and fleeing.
Four days earlier, on March 11, Staff Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten, 30, was shot dead next to a school in a quiet district of Toulouse. He too was of North African descent.
Police say the same scooter – a stolen 500cc Yamaha TMAX – and the same gun were used in all the shootings.
Forensics officers carry out their search at Ozar Hatorah Jewish school
According to a French police official, the gun used in all the attacks was a large calibre pistol. French prosecutors are studying possible terrorist links but any potential motive remains unclear.
There is speculation in the French media that there could be a neo-Nazi link to the killings.
Four years ago photos emerged of three soldiers from the same regiment as those who died posing in the Nazi salute with Nazi flags. One of the soldiers resigned, the other two were fired.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has ordered the terror alert in the southwestern region to be raised to the highest level.
From left, Arieh, Jonathan and Gabriel Sandler and Miriam Monsonego
Mr Sarkozy said he was “sure” the same gunman was behind the three attacks and that it was “obvious” Monday’s event was anti-Semitic.
He has suspended his re-election campaign until at least Wednesday and gave a televised address to the nation last night.
“We don’t know the motivations of this criminal.” he said.
“Of course, by attacking children and their children – Jews – the anti-Semitic motivation seems obvious.
“We don’t know what the motives are, even if one can think, one can imagine that racism and murderous folly are linked.”
Earlier, Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet described what happened at the Toulouse school: “A man arrived in front of the school on a motorcycle or scooter. He got off and when he was directly outside the building shot at everyone, children and adults alike.”
Baroukh, 29, who lives near the school, said he spoke to Mr Sandler just before he was shot.
“I said ‘bonjour’ to him like normal then he went out into the school entrance,” he said.
Read Sam Kiley’s piece on the manhunt
“I heard the shots and I turned around and saw him on the ground. He looked dead but I didn’t have much time to see who did it because I panicked and started running away.”
There were prayers on Monday night at Touloise’s main synagogue and at the cathedral in the city.
In Paris, several thousand people staged a silent march holding banners and waving Jewish flags. Some lit candles at the symbolic Bastille monument in Paris.
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