Al Jazeera says won’t air French gunman video
Al Jazeera television said on Tuesday it would not broadcast video footage of three deadly shootings in southern France filmed by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman using a camera strapped to his body.
The Qatar-based news network also said it was declining all requests from other media outlets for copies of the footage.
The French government, and the CSA broadcast regulator, had urged television channels to refrain from running video clips that gunman Mohamed Merah told police he had filmed as he shot dead three Jewish children, a rabbi and three soldiers.
France is still reeling from the gruesome nature of the attacks, which saw Merah grab one little girl by the hair as he shot her at point-blank range in one of three shooting sprees before he was killed by police last week.
“In accordance with Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents,” a spokesman for the network said in a statement.
The spokesman said Al Jazeera had passed the video footage on to the French police to help with their investigation.
Al Jazeera received a memory stick at its Paris bureau late on Monday that had been mailed anonymously from Toulouse last week, as police laid siege to Merah’s apartment.
It contained footage of the three shootings in chronological order, edited together with Islamic chants and readings from the Koran, Al Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief Zied Tarrouche told BFM TV. Staff sent a copy of the film to the network’s headquarters in Doha for management to decide how to proceed.
Merah, 23, told police negotiators last week during a more than 30-hour siege at his home that he had filmed his killings in the city of Toulouse and nearby Montauban. A fourth soldier he shot is alive but in critical condition.
Coming a month before an election where Sarkozy is battling a Socialist challenger to win a second term, the killings shone a spotlight on tensions in multi-ethnic city suburbs and raised questions over possible intelligence lapses.
Sarkozy, whose handling of the crisis has been praised by the public, wants a crackdown on people frequenting radical websites. He has also said he will block some Muslim preachers from coming to France for an Islamic conference next month.
On Tuesday, Sarkozy said he had asked the DCRI domestic intelligence service to work with the DGSE foreign intelligence service to make “extensive” checks on people posing a security risk and vowed to speed up deportations in public order cases.
“Extremists play with our administrative formalities, our duty is to be more efficient,” Sarkozy said.
KILLINGS LOW IN VOTER SURVEYS
Merah, who had attended an Islamist training camp in Pakistan, used a stolen scooter and a Colt .45 pistol to carry out his attacks over eight days before being cornered by police and eventually shot dead after a dramatic siege.
Tarrouche said the video was difficult to watch. “You hear the voice of the person who carried out the killings. You also hear the victims’ cries,” he said. “My feelings are those of any human being who sees horrible things.”
Sarkozy said it should not be aired. “I call on executives of all TV stations that may have the images in their possession not to broadcast them under any pretext out of respect for the victims and for France,” he said, after meeting police chiefs.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the film could have a dangerous effect on people inclined to radicalism, telling Radio Classique: “This incitement to violence, to murder, on minds that are often fragile or deranged, is absolutely detestable.”
Four anti-terrorist judges are heading the investigation into France’s worst attack by a radical Islamist in years and are probing Merah’s elder brother, Abdelkader, as an accomplice.
Abdelkader, 29 and already known to security services for having helped smuggle Jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007, will remain in jail for the duration of an inquiry that could last months before a decision on whether to send him to trial.
Police believe Mohamed operated largely as a lone wolf although he may have had logistical and ideological support from his brother and possibly others.
Investigators have begun looking for a possible additional accomplice involved in the theft of the scooter Merah used, a police source said. They also believe someone else rather than the gunman himself posted the memory stick to Al Jazeera.
The gunman’s family has decided to have him buried in Algeria, his parents’ native country, to avoid a grave in France being attacked or becoming a place of pilgrimage for extremists, an official of the Paris mosque said.
French media said the brothers’ Algerian father planned to take legal action against the French government over his son’s death. Sarkozy said he was “outraged”.
“Does this man have to be reminded that his son filmed his crimes and took diabolical care to send these ghastly images to a television station?” the president asked.
Three opinion polls on Tuesday showed Sarkozy is narrowing the gap behind Socialist Francois Hollande as the April 22 first-round vote approaches, although pollsters expect the focus to return to economic issues soon.
A survey by pollster BVA found only 8 percent of respondents said security fears would affect their vote, far behind economic issues including purchasing power for 42 percent of respondents and unemployment for 30 percent.
The same survey found that 51 percent of voters thought the Toulouse killings would have a major impact on the overall vote, but only 17 percent thought it would impact their own vote.
Additional reporting by Patrick Vignal, Leigh Thomas and Gwenaelle Barzic in Paris and Regan Doherty in Doha; Editing by Paul Taylor