Two ‘accomplices’ held for Toulouse attack

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iol pic wld Mohamed Merah attack dec 4 Reuters File photo: French crime scene investigating police place bags of evidence inside a car parked outside the five-storey apartment building where earlier special forces police staged the assault on the gunman Mohamed Merah, in Toulouse on March 22, 2012.

Paris - French police on Tuesday arrested two alleged accomplices of gunman Mohamed Merah, whose Al-Qaeda-inspired shooting spree in and around the southern city of Toulouse earlier this year left seven people dead.

A man, identified as Charles Mencarelli and described by police as a member of the traveller community, was arrested at his home in the town of Albi, about 70km northeast of Toulouse.

He was arrested without incident and was to be brought to Toulouse for questioning, police sources said.

Mencarelli's former partner was arrested separately at her home in Toulouse.

Both were detained on suspicion they helped Merah carry out his attacks in March, the sources said.

Merah's elder brother Abdelghani previously told French media that the gunman had accomplices, including someone from the traveller community who may have been involved in stealing the scooter Merah used in his attacks.

Another brother, Abdelkader, was also arrested as a suspected accomplice and remains in custody.

Merah shot a rabbi, three Jewish schoolchildren and three French paratroopers in March before being shot dead in a police siege.

A petty criminal who was lured into Islamic extremist circles in Toulouse, Merah visited Afghanistan and Pakistan before his attacks.

Since his shooting spree, it has become clear that Merah had been on the radar of France's security services for years and that authorities under-estimated the extent of his radicalisation following his trips abroad.

French intelligence services have been heavily criticised for failing to realise the threat posed by Merah.

His attacks prompted a rethink of French security policies, with legislation being considered that will allow authorities to prosecute citizens who attend militant Islamist training camps abroad and to boost monitoring of extremist sites on the internet. - AFP


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