French police on Wednesday were in a stand-off with a suspect in the killings of seven people during a shooting spree in the southwestern part of the country, including three children at a Jewish school.
The 24-year-old, who claims links to the Qaida terrorist network, told police negotiators that he acted to "avenge Palestinian children" and has also mentioned France's overseas military missions, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said at the scene in Toulouse.
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Special police forces launched a raid on a house in a quiet, leafy residential neighborhood there shortly after 3 a.m. The man immediately started shooting through the door, Gueant said.
At least two policemen were injured.
The suspect has since been "talking a lot" to police negotiators, in part through the door of the house, notably about his "commitment to al-Qaida," Gueant said. But several more volleys of gunfire have also been heard.
The French national, who comes from Toulouse, was already known to the country's intelligence services because of time he spent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gueant said.
He was under suspicion early on in the investigation into the killings of three French soldiers in Toulouse and the nearby city of Montauban on March 11 and March 15, according to the minister.
A subsequent attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse left a religion teacher and three children dead Monday.
The suspect's brother has also been detained, Gueant said.
Their mother was taken to the scene of the stand-off by police who asked her to reason with him, but she told officers that she did not have any influence over him, Gueant said.
Other "operations" were under way in Toulouse, a leading federal prosecutor said at the scene of the stand-off.
The road leading to the house has been blocked off with progressively more curious onlookers gathering as people in the neighborhood started waking up. Children with mobile phones were taking pictures of the large media presence.