As soon as I heard about the police standoff involving the Toulouse killer Mohammed Merah, I suspected it would end more or less like this: with his death, either in a firefight or by his own hand. I thought it more likely to be the latter, but it turned out to be the former, with Merah emerging from the building, guns blazing, after police had stormed it.
His death destroys whatever chance police would have had to learn more facts from the horse’s mouth, as it were. But it also has the benefit of denying Merah the propaganda platform of a trial. My guess is that authorities have already learned quite a bit from his computer, and perhaps his brother, anyway. And although Merah claimed to be al Qaeda trained and might have indeed have some affiliation with various terror groups, it also seems as though the murders he committed were a case of improvisation on his part.
Earlier, Merah had told about his motives [emphasis mine]:
He made a series of disclosures, officials said, claiming the killings of three paratroopers last week and an attack on a Jewish school that left a rabbi and three children dead, and saying he had planned more killings to avenge the killings of Palestinian children and to protest French intervention abroad and the banning of the full Islamic veil in France.
Got any idea whom one of those “Palestinian children” might be? I would wager a lot of money that it was Mohammad al Durah, whose death (or possible death; see this) in 2000 was falsely exploited by French TV to give the impression he was killed by Israelis when he was not, and whose image became a rallying cry for avenging Muslims all over the world. Merah, who was raised in France but was the son of Algerian immigrants, would have been close to 12 years old at the time. A very impressionable age, and the same age as al Durah.
The Times article about Merah’s death and crimes goes on to quote various Muslims in France as saying that they condemn his acts, and that they worry that this incident will increase the anger and fear against them as a group. I would guess that’s true. I wonder whether it was also one of Merah’s aims, unconscious or not. His first three victims—before he killed the rabbi and three children at a religious school—were French paratroopers of Arab Muslim origin.
The Times article quotes French Interior Minister Guéant as saying that the murders of these three military men were not related to their ethnic backgrounds. Oh, really? Why not? Merah’s other murders certainly were, and my best guess is that Merah choose the paratroopers because they were of similar background to him but collaborators with the hated enemy, France and the West. So there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t have considered any backlash against cooperative Muslims in France to be a feature of his crimes, and not a bug.