An Islamic extremist who boasted of killing seven people in an attempt to “bring France to its knees” died Thursday after jumping from his window, weapons in hand, in a shootout with police, a French minister said.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the suspect, Mohammed Merah, who claims links to al-Qaeda, was found holed up in the bathroom after police entered his apartment Thursday morning to end a 32-hour standoff. Police and the suspect exchanged gunfire before Mr. Merah died, with two police wounded in the firefight.
Prior to his death, Mr. Merah, who had confessed to killing three soldiers, three Jewish children and a rabbi, had broke off contact with police for over 10 hours. More than 300 police officers had begun to surround his apartment in southwestern France in the early hours of Wednesday.
Earlier Thursday, police officials were unsure whether Mr. Merah was still alive.
A series of loud exposions and gunfire were heard near the apartment Thursday, an attempt by police to tire out Mr. Merah and capture him alive.
A police trade union source said the blasts were from flash grenades fired to check for signs of life in the ground floor flat. Live television images showed emergency personnel positioning several stretchers near the scene.
“There was no movement during the night. We hope he is still alive,” Mr. Gueant told RTL radio on Thursday morning. Mr. Gueant said two shots had been heard during the night.
“Despite renewed efforts all through the night to reestablish contact by voice and radio, there has been no contact, no showing from him,” Mr. Gueant said at the time.