PARIS (AP) — A French ex-intelligence chief is expected to addresses failures in tracking Islamic extremists, at the trial over deadly 2012 attacks on a Jewish school and French soldiers.
Bernard Squarcini, now a private security consultant, was heading the French police counterterrorism agency when Mohammed Merah went on a shooting rampage, killing three French paratroopers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi.
Squarcini said at the time that Merah acted as a lone wolf, self-radicalized when in prison for petty crimes and wasn’t affiliated with an extremist network. But Merah had been placed on the “fiche S” listing, a register of people suspected of being radicalized, as soon as 2006 because of his relationship with older brother Abdelkader Merah, who is on trial for complicity to terror in connection with the three shooting attacks Mohammed Merah carried out in and near Toulouse.
Mohammed Merah was on the U.S. government no-fly list and in 2010, French military intelligence had been alerted by U. S. officials after he turned up in southern Afghanistan and was caught at a random roadway checkpoint by Afghan police, then handed over to the U.S. military.
He was also quizzed by a police official months before the carnage.
The 23-year-old Merah died days after the killings, following a 32-hour standoff with France’s police special forces, and questions immediately rose about the slow police response. Squarcini said authorities couldn’t have foreseen the attack at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school because Merah planned it at the last minute.
Prosecutors believe Abdelkader Merah played an active role in radicalizing his brother and in plotting the attacks, although Mohammed said he acted alone during his standoff with police, according to a transcript obtained by the French newspaper Liberation a few months afterward.
If convicted of complicity to terror, Abdelkader Merah faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.