Huge manhunt under way after fatal France shootings

The BBC's Christian Fraser in Toulouse says there is a "sense of anxiety" across France

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One of the biggest manhunts in recent French history is under way after four people were shot dead at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Police have linked the attack to two shootings last week in which three soldiers of North African descent died.

The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks, but the gunman has not been identified, officials say.

French schools held a minute's silence on Tuesday. The area is on the highest level of terrorism alert.

Analysis

It is now established beyond doubt that the three incidents in Toulouse and Montauban were the work of the same man. He used the same gun, rode the same 500cc Yamaha scooter, and acted with the same cold-blooded brutality.

But why the widely differing choice of targets: soldiers and Jewish children? One theory is that the man is a deranged far-rightwinger. It is noted that the three dead soldiers were of North African origin, and a fourth who was injured is from the French Caribbean.

The killer has a clear affinity with guns. Could he be a neo-Nazi type - maybe an ex-soldier or a member of the criminal underworld - with a hatred of all minorities, Jews and Muslims?

Some have gone further - indirectly pointing the finger at President Sarkozy for recently raising sensitive issues such as halal and kosher meat in the run-up to the presidential election. This tactic, they say, gives credibility to the far-right and 'delegitimises' the Muslim and Jewish communities.

The problem with this theory is that it is not yet established that the killer deliberately targeted Muslim soldiers.

It is the first time in the country's history that "scarlet alert" has been declared.

The measure enables the authorities to disrupt daily life and implement sweeping security measures, including mixed police-military patrols, powers to suspend public transport and close schools.

Guards are being posted outside all faith-based schools, as well as all Jewish and Muslim religious buildings.

About 200 investigators from Paris are pursuing two main lines of inquiry - an Islamist motive or the far right.

But Interior Minister Claude Gueant told French radio the authorities did not know who the killer was.

"For now, we carry on working. We're no further than that," he said.

The minister said "a witness saw a small video camera around the killer's neck" and the authorities were combing the internet for any possible footage.

Mr Gueant said this was an important clue allowing police to build a psychological profile of the killer, who he described as "clearly very cold, determined and master of his actions".

But there was no sign police were near making an arrest.

Mother's blame

A teacher and three children were shot dead at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, and a teenage boy was seriously injured.

The shootings took place as parents were taking their children to the school on Monday.

"This man alighted from his moped and, as he was outside the school, he shot at everybody who was near him, children or adults," local prosecutor Michel Valet told journalists.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and his family Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and two of his children were among those killed at the school

The scooter - a black Yamaha - was stolen in Toulouse five days before the first shooting. Its number plate was picked up by closed-circuit TV cameras at the school, police sources said.

The dead were Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old rabbi and teacher of religion originally from Jerusalem, and his two sons, aged four and five.

The fourth person killed was a seven-year-old girl, Myriam Monsonego, daughter of the head teacher. She died in her father's arms.

All the dead were dual French-Israeli nationals and will be buried in Israel, the Israeli foreign ministry said.

Miriam Monsonego, daughter of school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, who was killed at the Ozar Hatorah School in Toulouse. Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the school headmaster, was also killed

A 17-year-old boy was seriously hurt. Initially, the killer used a 9mm gun, but when it jammed, he switched to a .45 calibre pistol.

Police say the .45 was the same gun used to kill three soldiers in two separate shootings in Toulouse and nearby Montauban last week. All three were of North African or Caribbean origin.

The mother of a girl at the Toulouse school told the BBC she was angry with the authorities who she said had not taken last week's incidents seriously enough and had "lost time to look for this man".

The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris says not since the early 1980s have there been lethal attacks like this in France on Jewish targets. And even then, children were never the primary victims, he says.

All the candidates in the French presidential election have suspended campaigning.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said his campaign would remain suspended until Wednesday at the earliest, when he is due to attend the soldiers' funerals.

As well as Mr Sarkozy, opposition Socialist candidate Francois Hollande visited Toulouse to offer his condolences. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen called on the authorities to do everything to prevent another such attack.

Map of south-west France shootings

11 March: Off-duty sergeant shot dead in Toulouse while waiting for a man about a motorbike sale

15 March: Two paratroopers shot dead and a third injured while waiting at a cash machine in Montauban

19 March: Three children and a teacher shot dead, and a youth injured, at a Toulouse Jewish school

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