Questions were mounting on Friday over how a known Islamist extremist managed to murder seven people, including three children, in three separate attacks before being killed in a firefight.

Adding to pressure on security officials, one veteran police officer asked how the gunman was not taken alive during Thursday's siege and final assault in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Officers from an elite unit moved on Thursday after a 32—hour siege, killing self—proclaimed Al—Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah as he tried to shoot his way out of his apartment.

The siege had interrupted the hard—fought campaign for France's April—May presidential vote, but President Sarkozy resumed his re-election bid with a rally in Strasbourg on Thursday, where he said: “These crimes were not the work of a madman.

“A madman is irresponsible. These crimes were the work of a fanatic and a monster.”

In a televised address earlier, Mr. Sarkozy had vowed to crack down on extremism, saying he wanted legal action against people who regularly consulted jihadist websites or travelled abroad for indoctrination. But politicians were asking how French intelligence officers had failed to head off Merah's killing spree given that he was already on their radar as an extremist.

Mr. Sarkozy's main challenger, the socialist Francois Hollande, referred to reports of possible failings in the surveillance of Merah at a rally late Thursday.

Te Communist daily L'Humanite called for full disclosure over how closely France's intelligence services had followed Merat's activities. And left—leaning Liberation asked if political considerations had influenced how police had handled the crisis.

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