March 20, 2012 -- As the manhunt continues for the gunman who killed four at a Jewish school in this southwestern French city, French authorities said they were treating it as the latest in a series of terror attacks and that the whole region remains on alert.
"Today we do not know who he is," said French Interior Minister Claude Gueant. "As long as he has not been arrested we are at the highest level of alert in the Midi-Pyrenees area."
Paris District Attorney Francois Molins, whose office handles France's terrorism cases, said at a press conference today that Monday's shootings were linked to two earlier attacks in which three French paratroopers died. Moulin said all three attacks involved shots to the head from close range with the same Colt .45 revolver, and that the shooter drove the same model of scooter in each attack.
"We are dealing with an individual who is extremely determined in his action, armed and acting with the same modus operandi in all three attacks," said Molins. He characterized the shootings, which began on March 11, as "coldblood[ed]... terrorist attacks," and said 200 investigators are looking at 7800 hours of surveillance footage for clues. He said he did not rule out the possibility of further attacks.
Responding to earlier reports that the shooter might have used a camera to film his exploits, Molins did not discount the possibility, but called it "nothing more than a hypothesis."
Earlier Monday, Gueant had said that a witness reporting seeing a small video camera around the gunman's neck. "I do not know whether he was filming everything but this hardware was seen, indeed," said Gueant.
Gueant also said that French police have no clear leads in the case. Since Monday's victims were Jewish and all the soldiers targeted were of North African or Caribbean background, authorities have been exploring possible Islamist or Neo-Nazi motives for the violence.
Bodies of Toulouse Victims Bound for Israel
The shooter pulled up on a motorcycle outside the Ozar Hatorah school on Monday morning and shot Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and six children. Sandler and three of the children died,. Three others were seriously wounded.
The bodies are now headed to Israel for burial. The coffins were taken to Paris via military aircraft for a brief closed ceremony, where the victims were honored by President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Fillon. The coffins will arrive in Israel tomorrow, and be buried in a Jerusalem cemetery.
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 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.
On Sunday, March 11, a paratrooper out of uniform was killed by a gunman on a motorbike outside of a gym in a suburb of Toulouse.
On Thursday, March 15, 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.