An undated and non-datelined frame grab from a video broadcast March 21, 2012 by French national television station France 2 who they claim to show Mohamed Merah, the suspect in the killing of 3 paratroopers, 3 children and a rabbi in recent days in France. About 300 police, some in body armour, have cordoned off a five-storey building in Toulouse where the 24-year-old Muslim shooter, identified as Mohamed Merah, is holed up. REUTERS/France 2 Television/Handout (FRANCE - Tags: CRIME LAW) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

The 23-year-old Franco-Algerian man suspected of killing seven people, including three Jewish school children, admitted he had refused orders by al-Qaeda to carry out a suicide attack, a top French official said on Wednesday.

The suspect, Mohamed Merah, made the admission to police negotiators during the 20-hour-plus police stand-off in Toulouse that continued well past midnight into Thursday, according to Interior Minister Claude Gueant in remarks broadcast on French television TF1.

Gueant said that Merah divulged to police negotiators that during his travels to Pakistan or Afghanistan, his al-Qaeda contacts proposed a suicide mission to be carried out in France. But Merah refused, and agreed rather to accept an order to carry out killings without endangering himself, Gueant said.

Gueant also said that Merah had been interrogated by intelligence agents in November about his travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that he had explained that the trips were for pleasure, not criminal activity. “He explained, with the use of photographs as evidence, that it was a tourist trip,” Gueant said. - Sapa-dpa