Couple suspected of aiding Toulouse killer Merah taken into custody


A man and a woman in the Toulouse area were arrested on suspicion that they helped Mohammed Merah “commit crimes” that may have included the murder of four Jews.

According to L'Express, a French daily, French authorities arrested the two on Tuesday morning. Reports in the French media said there was no use of force.

The French news service AFP named one of the suspects as Charles Mencarelli and reported that he had been arrested in Albi, about 45 miles northeast of Toulouse. AFP described Mencarelli as not having a permanent address. His life partner was arrested at her home in Toulouse, according to the report.

The pair will be brought for arraignment within 96 hours of their arrest, according to  L’Express, during which time they will be interrogated about their links with Merah. They are not suspected of belonging to a jihadist network, an unnamed police source told L’Express.

Merah, a 23-year-old radical Muslim, killed a rabbi and three children in a pre-planned attack on the Otzar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse on March 19. The slayings came a few days after Merah gunned down three French soldiers in two drive-by shootings from a scooter near Toulouse. He was shot dead on March 22 by police as they stormed his home.

Tuesday's arrests were headed by France’s domestic intelligence service, DCRI, and the country’s top SWAT team, the anti-terrorist SDAT unit.

Victims’ families demand inquiry into Toulouse murders


The families of the victims of Mohammed Merah have called for a parliamentary inquiry into failures that allowed him to murder four Jews and three French soldiers in the Toulouse area.

The families’ attorney, Patrick Klugman, said the parliament should set up a committee of inquiry in light of the findings of a recent report, which named “objective failures” in the authorities’ handling of Merah, a 23-year-old Muslim radical whom police killed in a gun fight after the murders.

The report by France’s police comptroller unit said the failures meant that French authorities miscalculated the threat posed by Merah.

Klugman made the statement Wednesday to France Inter, a radio broadcaster, on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first visit to the school where on March 19 Merah gunned down his Jewish victims, a rabbi and three children. Netanyahu announced that he would visit the site with French President Francois Hollande.

At the moment, “there is no official instance represented in the investigation that can clear the barriers and evaluate all the conflicting accounts,” said Klugman, a former president of the Union of French Jewish Students and well-known campaigner against anti-Semitism.

Merah, who had made several trips to trouble spots in the Middle East and thousands of telephone calls all over the world, had been under some form of surveillance for approximately two years before he struck, but only in November 2011 did his file reach the French domestic intelligence agency DCRI.

Liberation, a French daily, revealed on Oct. 31 that two police officers from Toulouse, Christian Ballé-Andui and an agent identified only as “Hassan,” recommended that their superior consider arresting the already radicalized Merah as early as June 2011 for conspiring to commit a crime. Their warnings went unheeded.

French spy service ‘failed’ to see Merah was dangerous, report finds


French security “failed” in assessing the danger posed by Mohammed Merah, the French Interior Ministry said in a report.

The 17-page report, which was submitted Tuesday, confirmed that the French domestic intelligence agency DCRI had been monitoring Merah since last November, four months before he gunned down three French soldiers and killed four at a Jewish day school in Toulouse.

Among the “various objective failures” noted in the report, the domestic spy service was unaware that Merah, who had at least 15 previous criminal convictions, had attacked a neighbor with a sword in June 2010 after she complained that he had shown her son a jihadi video depicting decapitation.

The report by IGPN, the French police comptroller, said the security service “identified the change in Merah's profile very late” despite repeated warnings that he had radicalized in France and abroad.

Had the change been observed, the service may have increased surveillance on Merah, who turned into an Islamist hardliner in prison in February 2008, the report found.

Merah's transformation to a radical only became apparent to the agency two years later.

His departure to Pakistan in August last year also went unnoticed because he passed through Oman, which is not on the French intelligence's 31-country outbound travel watch list.

At the Omar Hatzolah School in Toulouse, Merah killed three Jewish children and a rabbi.