Toulouse gunman's mother released, brother to be questioned by anti-terrorism police
The mother of Mohamed Merah, the Islamist gunman who claimed responsibility for killing seven people in the Toulouse area before being shot dead by police in a raid, has been released from police custody, dpa reported citing French media.
It was not immediately clear whether Zoulikha Aziri, who was detained Wednesday at the outset of the police operation to try to arrest her son, would face any charges, Le Figaro reported.
Meanwhile, the gunman's brother, Abdelqader Merah, who was also detained Wednesday along with his wife, was transferred to Paris for questioning by anti-terrorism police.
Abdelqader Merah, described by police as a religious fundamentalist, is being investigated for possible links to Merah's attacks, which killed three children, a rabbi and three soldiers.
Le Point news weekly and other French media reported him as telling investigators he had no knowledge of his brother's acts, but that he was "proud" of them.
Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin with a history of delinquency, told police he acted alone during his attacks between March 11 and March 19.
But questions are being asked as to how the jobless panelbeater, who claimed links to al-Qaeda, managed to amass an expensive arsenal of assault weapons and pistols without external financial or logistical support.
Meanwhile, the government minister who oversaw the police investigation and raid slammed criticism of the operation as unfair and politically-motivated.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant told Le Figaro newspaper the criticisms, which came as campaigning resumed in the country's presidential elections, were "clearly inspired by political considerations" and were "out of place."
Several candidates have questioned why the police had failed to identify Merah as a suspect in the killing of three soldiers before he attacked a Jewish school on Monday.
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande also asked whether there was a serious lapse on the part of the intelligence services, who had questioned Merah in 2011 over trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan but had not kept him under constant surveillance since.
Security experts also questioned why the police did not try to overpower Merah by introducing gas into his apartment at the outset of the raid.
Gueant said the use of such a gas would have been illegal under international conventions.
Amaury de Hauteclocque, head of the elite police team that carried out the raid, told Le Figaro that Merah said he wanted to "join Allah and his 72 virgins" and that there was "no other solution in the end" but to kill him.