ISSN 2330-717X

France: Four Killed In Shooting At Jewish School

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(RFE/RL) — French police say the gun used in a fatal shooting at a Jewish school in southwestern France was the same weapon that was used in two shootings in the region last week which left three paratroopers dead.

In addition, police in Paris have opened an investigation into threatening letters received by two synagogues in the French capital.

Authorities are making no links between the shootings and the letters.

Four people — including three children — were killed in the shooting on March 19 in the city of Toulouse, which French President Nicolas Sarkozy called “a national tragedy.”

“That crazy people are able to do this is a tragedy,” Sarkozy said. “It reminds us of the depth of human nature — of human beings who are human beings in name only. [They] don’t follow the practices that respect the dignity of life, which should be sacred.”

Witnesses said the attack at the Jewish school was carried out by a gunman driving a motorbike.

Last week, a gunman riding a motorbike killed three soldiers in two separate attacks in Toulouse and in the nearby town of Montauban.

On March 12, an unknown gunman shot dead a soldier in Toulouse, while on March 16, two more soldiers were killed and one seriously wounded near a military base about 50 kilometers away from Toulouse.

All the slain soldiers were of North African or Caribbean origin.

Besides the use of a motorcycle, the same high-caliber pistol was employed in all three shootings.

‘He Shot At Everybody’

Toulouse prosecutor Michel Valet told journalists that the gunman in Toulouse fired indiscriminately at children and adults in front of the Ozar Hatorah school shortly before classes were due to start.

“This man got off his scooter and as he was outside the school, he shot at everybody who was near him, children or adults,” Valet said. “Children were chased right into the school.”

The prosecutor said the children killed at the school were aged three, six and 10, and that a 30-year-old religious-education teacher was also killed.

A 17-year-old was wounded.

Officials said the adult victim was the father of two of the slain children.

International Condemnation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the killings “despicable murder”

“Today we had a savage crime in France that gunned down French Jews, among them children,” he said. “It’s too early to say what the precise background for this act of murder is, but I think that we can’t rule out that there was a strong murderous anti-Semitic motive here.

“I am sure that Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, and his government will do their utmost to find the killer and we in Israel will do everything to help them in this task.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso condemned the shooting as an “odious crime.”

European countries, the Vatican, and the United States have all condemned the incident.

The current French presidential election campaign has been put on hold in a show of national unity in the wake of the tragedy.

Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who also visited Toulouse on March 19, said “we must do everything to ensure that acts of anti-Semitism or racism are met with a firm and common response from the whole republic.”

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen also cancelled campaigning, saying it is right to “suspend politics as a sign of compassion and solidarity.”

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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