France launches manhunt for cold-blooded killer

2012-03-20 09:01

France has launched a massive manhunt for a serial killer who gunned down three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse, slapping an unprecedented terror alert on the southwest of the nation.

With a grieving nation in shock, President Nicolas Sarkozy suspended his re-election campaign until at least tomorrow.

Yesterday’s massacre was the third fatal shooting in the Toulouse area in eight days by a killer using the same weapon and a stolen scooter.

His first target was a paratrooper of North African origin, shot dead in Toulouse on March 11.

Four days later, the cold-blooded killer shot dead two other soldiers of North African origin in the nearby garrison town of Montauban, also seriously wounding a soldier from the Caribbean.

French authorities have stepped up security at Jewish and Muslim schools following the bloody assault on the Ozar Hatorah school, and Sarkozy declared a maximum “scarlet” terror alert on the Midi-Pyrenees region.

“In attacking children and a Jewish teacher, the anti-Semitic motive of the attack appears to be obvious,” Sarkozy said in a nationally televised address after he returned to the capital, Paris, from the scene of the shooting.

Israel led global outrage against the “despicable murders” and identified the dead as Franco-Israeli citizens: 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his sons Arieh (5) and Gabriel (4) as well as seven-year-old girl Miriam Monsonego.

Witnesses said Sandler died trying to shield his sons, and that the gunman had chased Monsonego, the daughter of the school head, into the school before shooting her in the head.

Yaacov Monsonego was praying in the synagogue attached to the school when another young pupil brought him the body of his slain daughter, witnesses said.

A fifth victim, a 17-year-old boy, was wounded, but local community leaders said he was expected to survive.

The killer wore a full face helmet and appeared calm and collected, carefully parking his scooter before opening fire, witnesses said.

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