Mohamed Merah, the Islamic gunman who murdered seven people in an around Toulouse in southwestern France, may have been working for French intelligence.
The Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported that officials with the French agency in charge of espionage and counter-terrorism -- the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) – said Merah was an informant for the spy network.
If these allegations are true, they would raise grave questions about the complicity of French intelligence in the massacres that Merah perpetrated.
Merah reportedly had travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and even Israel, in 2010, with the help of French intelligence.
However, a DGSE official told Britain’s Independent newspaper that the charges are false.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz also reported on Merah’s apparent stay in Israel, citing sources with Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. It is unclear if Merah visited Palestinian-ruled areas during this sojourn. It is also unclear if Merah was arrested by Israeli authorities while in the country.
Il Foglio also reported that Pakistan’s intelligence services denied some reports in the Western media that Merah entered the country twice and received military training in the Waziristan region.
However, a Taliban source told both Reuters and Associated Press that Merah was indeed in Waziristan and stayed at a military camp. The Taliban official denied that they had any connections with the recent massacres in France.
Meanwhile, France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that Bernard Squaricini, the chief of Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) – France’s domestic intelligence agency -- revealed that during the 32-hour police siege at Merah’s Toulouse apartment, Merah asked for a DRCI agent by name.
But Squaricini also denied that Merah worked for DCRI, or helped the agency in any way.
“[Merah was not] an informer for the DCRI or any other French or foreign services, Squaricini said, according to the Libération newspaper.
Questions about Merah’s possible links to French intelligence will likely continue to linger.
Yves Bonnet, a former French intelligence official, said: Having a contact is not totally innocent. This is not trivial. I don't know how far his relationship, or collaboration, with the [intelligence] service went, but it is a question worth raising, according to Toulouse newspaper La Dépêche du Midi.