French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Jewish community representatives the suspected Islamist gunman besieged in Toulouse had planned another attack Wednesday, a Jewish leader said.
Nicole Yardeni, head of the CRIF Jewish group in the Midi-Pyrenees region, said Sarkozy had told them the shooter “already had a plan to kill again” and that “he planned to kill this morning.”
The president was speaking at a memorial ceremony for the soldiers at their barracks in Montauban, while police in nearby Toulouse besieged the flat where a self-declared al-Qaeda gunman was holed up.
Sarkozy said Wednesday that three French paratroopers gunned down last week in southern France were victims of a “terrorist execution.”
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant denied on Wednesday that a gunman suspected of killing seven people in the name of al Qaeda has been arrested, a ministry spokesman said.
“Claude Gueant denies the arrest of the main suspect,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Reuters.
Earlier, French television channels BFM TV and i-Tele had reported that the suspected killer had been arrested after a nearly 12-hour operation.
The suspect remains holed up in an apartment in Toulouse, surrounded by police.
Earlier, about 300 police, some in bullet-proof body armor, cordoned off an area surrounding an apartment in a Toulouse neighborhood in southwestern France, where the 24-year-old Muslim man is holed up.
Shots were heard in the early hours of the morning, and police said three officers had been slightly wounded.
The gunman is suspected of killing three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in the name of al-Qaeda, according to media reports.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the gunman was a French citizen of Algerian origin who had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and had shot dead the four in revenge for French military involvement abroad.
Authorities also believe the gunman was the same person responsible for killing three soldiers of North African origin in two shootings last week in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban.
The same Colt 45 handgun was used in all three attacks and in each case the gunman arrived on a Yamaha scooter with his face hidden by a motorcycle helmet.
The suspected gunman has said he will surrender late Wednesday evening to police besieging him in Toulouse, a prosecutor said.
“He had said he wanted to give himself up in the afternoon or evening, now it’s in the late evening,” Francois Molins told reporters.
Meanwhile, An Afghan provincial governor on Wednesday denied statements by a senior prison official that Mohamed Merah, the suspected gunman, was jailed for bombings in Afghanistan in 2007 and escaped months later.
Citing prison documents, Kandahar prison chief Ghulam Faruq had told Reuters that Afghan security forces detained Merah on Dec. 19, 2007, and that he was sentenced to three years in jail for planting bombs in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace.
A senior Kandahar intelligence source confirmed Faruq’s account and said he had a file on a French Algerian of the same name, who was arrested in 2007 and broke out of prison in 2008.
But the Kandahar governor’s office said that account was “baseless”, citing judicial records.
“Security forces in Kandahar have never detained a French citizen named Mohammad Merah,” the governor’s spokesman, Ahmad Jawed Faisal, said.