Today's Paper

Slain terrorist Merah planned to attack Indian embassy in Paris

Mohamed Merah, the terrorist who was shot dead by the French Special Forces in Toulouse on March 22, had also planned to attack the Indian Embassy in Paris, French daily Le Monde reported.

Quoting sources from the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence and the Special Forces who took part in the 32-hour siege of Merah, Le Monde alleges that the young killer's Taliban handlers in Pakistan had ordered him to attack the Indian mission here. “That was the target given him by the Taliban who prepared him for jihad during his training in Pakistan in the summer of 2011,” Le Monde reported. However, the paper says, Merah finally decided against the attack, given the difficulty of the enterprise. These conversations between Merah and Special Forces personnel were recorded and they are now part of the judicial dossier.

Merah first killed three Army personnel outside their barracks on March 15. Four days later, he killed a Jewish Rabbi and his two sons at a faith school, and then chased and killed a seven-year-old girl on the school premises. Throughout, he filmed his acts with a video camera strapped to his chest.

During the 32-hour siege, which ended in a bloody gun battle, he spoke freely to policemen who continued to interrogate him over telephone. All these conversations were recorded.

When asked by The Hindu whether this report was a matter of serious concern for the Indian government, Ambassador Rakesh Sood said: “The news report in Le Monde is something we have taken note of. We have also taken it up with the authorities in France, in terms of the veracity of the story as well as necessary steps to strengthen the security arrangements at the Embassy and the Residence.”

Had Merah carried out his plans, was the Embassy protected enough or was it vulnerable? To this question, Mr. Sood said the report, quoting Merah, said he found the Embassy a difficult target. “Therefore what exactly had he intended to do and that he was unable to do is something that is difficult to know, now that he is no more. It is difficult to figure out what exactly he had in mind. But somewhere in the Le Monde report it does say that he desisted because of the difficulty of the task. In any case, we are taking steps to strengthen the protection of the Embassy.”

Lured into jihad

Well-placed sources in France who cannot be quoted say the French intelligence services are extremely worried over the growing radicalisation within the Muslim community here. France has the largest concentration of Muslims in Europe, an estimated five million and it is often the young, under-educated and unskilled Muslims of Arab origin, who are radicalised and lured into jihad.

Merah is exactly one such youth of Algerian extraction. During his conversations with the policemen, he deplored the fact that he had not killed enough victims. “I did not kill enough,” he said, adding he did not fear the Special Forces surrounding his first floor apartment “because they love life, while I prefer death.”

Elder brother being questioned

The police are questioning his elder brother, Abdelkader Merah (29), who remains in isolation at the prison in Fresnes. The older Merah admits he helped his brother steal the scooter Mohamed Merah used during the killings. The younger Merah would carry out armed robberies to finance his trips to Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Iraq or Israel. The fact that he travelled to Israel has given rise to the suspicion that Merah was an intelligence agent or at least a pawn used by the French spy agencies. With a name like Merah, the Israelis would have been extremely reticent to let him in despite his having a French passport, unless they had the green light from French services.

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