Politics Abroad:Terrorist shooting sees wider implications in France
Jacob Steckel, Staff Writer
April 12, 2012
Filed under News & Features
In an effort to respond to the broader implications of a recent terrorist shooting, the French government and Special Forces are cracking down on radicals in the Paris region of Toulouse.
The shooting, which occurred on Monday, March 19, claimed the lives of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his sons, Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, while they were at a local Jewish school. Myriam Monsenego, 8, was also killed in the attack.
The gunman, Mohammed Merah, fled the scene on a scooter, leading the police to chase him to an apartment complex in Toulouse. Merah then confessed to the above murders, as well as the murders of three French paratroopers, before being shot himself after a 32-hour standoff.
Merah’s suspected Al-Qaida ties have not put the local communities at ease in the aftermath of the shooting. The Merah family, namely the gunman’s older brother, Abdelkader Merah, has been implicated in murder, terrorism and correspondence with at least one jihadist network as well.
Although he claimed to have acted alone in the killings, Mohammed Merah is suspected to have committed these crimes under the guidance of other entities, which have not yet been released.
As of April 4, 29 people have been arrested under suspicion of being “militant Islamists.” Organized raids on suspected hotbeds of organized radicalism have been conducted, and arrests have taken place throughout France. Several Kalishnikov automatic rifles and bulletproof vests were also recovered during the arrests.
Although authorities have not stated whether the incarceration of these individuals is related to the March 19 shooting, it is speculated the violence has created a cry for such a response.
“What you have to understand is that the traumatic events in Montauban and Toulouse were profound in our country,” said French president Nicolas Sarkozy of the widespread uneasiness that has followed in the aftermath of the Toulouse shooting. “It’s a bit like the form of trauma visible in the United States and New York after 9/11.”
Sarkozy also promised that the raids will continue and that they will primarily target those who have publicly claimed to be mujahedeen (Holy Warriors) or are known to promote extreme racial ideologies.
Further, when speaking to the French press, he said, “There will be other operations that will continue and that will allow us to expel from our national territory a certain number of people who have no reason to be here.”
This response is considered by many to be unsurprising, given the proximity of the French presidential election season. Swift action against radical elements is expected to help to bolster Sarkozy’s image as a strong leader during uncertain times, improving his odds of an electoral victory.
However, throughout Western Europe, tensions between citizens and immigrants from the Arabic world continue to rise. Many French see the violent acts of people like Merah as bringing foreign conflicts into their borders, perpetuating an uneasy state of coexistence between the two sects.
Merah was buried soon after his death in Toulouse. His father, citing the French police, stated that Algeria refused to accept the body for burial there. In an ironic turn of events, he is suing the French government for the “murder” of his son.
The bodies of the victims of the school shooting were flown to Israel, where they were buried with ceremony, leaving their families to grieve their loss.