Gun in French School Shooting Linked to Prior Attacks

PHOTO: School children are comforted at the scene of a fatal shooting after a gunman opened fire outside the Ozar Hatorah school, March 19, 2012 in Toulouse, France.
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The French government has confirmed that the gun used to kill three French paratroopers last week is the same gun that a shooter used to fire on a Jewish school in Toulouse this morning, killing four, including a 30-year-old rabbi and his two children.

Investigators believe the shooting is linked to two attacks last week that killed three soldiers and wounded one. In all the attacks, the killer acted alone, arrived by motorcycle and used the same weapon.

The shooter, who arrived and fled from the Ozar Hatorah school on a scooter or a motorcycle, "shot at everything he could see," according to local prosecutor Michel Valet. The head of a French-Jewish association who saw closed-circuit television footage of the attack said the shooter could be seen "running after children," and then catching up with them and shooting one in the head.

The dead included Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, who taught at the school, his 3- and 6-year-old sons Gabriel and Arieh, and the school headmaster's 8-year-old daughter, according to the Israeli newspaper Ynet. Sandler, a French-Israeli national, had left Israel last September to begin a two-year teaching stint at the school, according to the Le Parisien newspaper.

A 17-year-old and two other students were seriously wounded.

French interior ministry spokesman French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet confirmed to ABC News that the same gun was used in two other incidents where a shooter targeted his victims while driving a motorcycle in the same area. Last Sunday, a paratrooper out of uniform was killed by a gunman on a motorbike outside of a gym in a suburb of Toulouse.

On Thursday, two soldiers were killed and a third wounded by a shooter on a scooter as they used an ATM in Montauban, about 30 miles away.

All three soldiers who died were of North African origin, while the wounded soldier was of Caribbean descent. According to French media, police are looking into far right and Islamist motives for the shootings, though they have not discounted any motive. Investigators are reportedly interested in talking to three paratroopers discharged from the same regiment as the dead soldiers four years ago because of neo-Nazi ties.

The same .45 caliber handgun was used in the shootings last week and this morning. French media have also reported that the same stolen Yamaha scooter was used in the school shooting and in last week's attack. However, there have been slightly differing descriptions of the motorcyle that suggest the same scooter might not have been used in all three attacks, or that it might have been painted.

Witnesses of today's shooting described a horrific scene at the drop-off point for nursery- and primary-age students. The killer arrived with two weapons, and one jammed, according to AFP.

"I saw two people dead in front of the school, an adult and a child ... It was a vision of horror, the bodies of two small children," a father whose child attends the school told RTL radio. "I did not find my son. Apparently he fled when he saw what happened. How can they attack something as sacred as a school?"

"Just because we are different doesn't mean we should be killed," one student's father, in tears, told the local newspaper Sud Quest from outside the school.

One student described how the shooting began just as she arrived for her morning prayers. "We were really afraid," she told Sud Quest. She said after police arrived, the children sat down, were given water, and prayed together.

Police say they have locked Toulouse down as they hunt for the killer, and the government tightened security at all religious sites in France, particularly Jewish schools. Sixty police officers, including anti-terrorist police, are helping with this investigation after they had already begun examining the attacks on the troops.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election, immediately flew to Toulouse, which is about 425 miles south of Paris.

"Whatever happens," he said, "faced with this kind of toll, we can say that the French Republic as a whole has been hit by this appalling tragedy."

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