4:24am UK, Wednesday March 21, 2012
Two French police officers investigating the murders of seven people have been hurt during a shoot-out with suspects.
The elite officers reportedly sustained the injuries during an ongoing pre-dawn raid near the south western city of Toulouse.
It comes amid the hunt for a gunman who shot dead three children and a rabbi at a nearby Jewish school.
A source linked to the probe told AFP news agency that a man claiming to be linked to al Qaeda was holed up in the target building, adding that the two police officers were slightly injured in the action.
French news channel BFM TV said the suspects were linked to an Islamist group which it identified as Forsane Alizza.
The killings at Ozar Hatorah Jewish school on Monday followed the shootings of four soldiers – three of them fatal – in two attacks over the previous eight days.
All three of the soldiers killed were of North African descent. All of the attacks were apparently carried out by an assailant using the same gun and scooter.
The victim’s backgrounds had led to fears the killer was specifically targeting members of minority communities.
Chief prosecutor in Paris, Francois Molins, who is monitoring the investigation in Toulouse, had warned there could well be more killings.
“At this stage, everything is being done to identify, find and stop the perpetrator, of these three killings as fast as possible,” he said.
“In these exceptional circumstances, I think it is obvious that we are up against an extremely determined individual, who knows he’s being hunted, who could strike again.”