Police in France have made a link between Monday’s massacre at a Jewish school in Toulouse with two separate deadly attacks on French soldiers last week in the same region.
On Monday morning, a gunman on a black scooter fired shots at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, killing four people, three of them small children. Last week, in two separate incidents, one in Toulouse, the other in nearby Montauban, three French paratroopers were similarly murdered by a man firing from a passing motorbike.
Police officials are now confirming that the same weapon and same scooter were used in all three attacks, according to reports.
The killer used a .45-caliber gun on the Jewish school, the same weapon used in the prior murders of the soldiers, police said.
This [gunman] alighted from his moped and, as he was outside the school, he shot at everybody who was near him, children or adults. Children were chased right into the school, local prosecutor Michel Valet told reporters.
According to media reports, police said the scooter, a black Yamaha 500CC T-MAX model, was stolen in Toulouse on March 6 and its license plate number was picked up by a closed-circuit television camera.
Earlier on Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated: We are struck by the similarities between the modus operandi of today's drama and those last week even if we have to wait to have more elements from the police to confirm this hypothesis.”
The French newspaper Le Monde suggests all the murders may be racially motivated since the soldiers who were targeted were all of North African or Afro-Caribbean descent.
A team of 60 police officers and anti-terrorist specialists are combing the area in a desperate search for the mass murderer,
The killings have shocked France and brought a temporary suspension of the presidential campaign. Both the incumbent Sarkozy and his Socialist challenger Francois Hollande rushed to Toulouse to express their outrage over the violence and to extend their solidarity with the Jewish community.
In response to the carnage, the French government has tightened security at all religious schools and institutions around the country. Sarkozy has also imposed the highest terrorism alert level for all of southwestern France.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry, which earlier condemned the murders, said all four victims of Monday’s outrage had dual French-Israeli citizenship and will be duly buried in Israel.
William Hague, the British foreign secretary, also expressed his horror over the killings.
This act of calculated cruelty will unite all decent people in revulsion and condemnation, he said.
The BBC reported that France has not witnessed such violence against Jews since 1982, when an attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris killed six and wounded 22.
France is home to some 700,000 Jews, making it the largest Jewish community in Europe. France also has the continent’s biggest Muslim population, estimated at about 5 million.