Toulouse shootings: Outrage in the French press

Silent walk in tribute to the victims of shooting in Jewish school
Image caption Many turned out to pay tribute to the victims

Expressions of shock, fear, grief and outrage dominate today's front pages in France.

Headlines such as "Horror and fear in Toulouse" (Le Monde), "France is horrified" (Le Figaro), "A national tragedy" (Catholic daily La Croix), "Monstrous killings in Toulouse" (regional daily Le Telegramme), "The shock" (regional daily Le Dauphine Libere) and "National sadness" (regional daily La Montagne) convey a mix of emotions after a gunman shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in the city of Toulouse.

Le Parisien carries a full-page photo of a man cradling a boy's head, with the headline "France distraught at tragedy". Other papers, too, carry photos of children or teenagers looking shocked and being comforted.

The front page of Liberation is all black, with a list of the victims' names and their ages in white lettering in the centre of the page. The list includes the names of the three soldiers killed in earlier incidents attributed to the same gunman.

Search for explanations

The left-wing paper l'Humanite ventures an explanation for the shootings with the front-page headline "A racist killer".

The local daily La Depeche du Midi looks more closely into this line of inquiry. The paper quotes police as saying that the killings seem to be the work of "a professional". "The French army has people in its ranks who may be tempted by extremism," the paper says.

Observing that racism has been mentioned as a possible motive, it quotes some soldiers as saying that often this goes "too far". "From there to killing brothers in arms? But why children?" it asks.

Noting that the soldiers killed were of the Muslim faith, a front-page editorial in the centre-right Le Figaro wonders whether a mix of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism were driving the killer. "Perhaps. No doubt," it says, but it adds that "it is hard to imagine that the motive, whatever it may be, can be dissociated from suicidal madness".

An editorial in the centre-left Liberation warns against rushing to conclusions. "There is nothing to substantiate the theory of racist crimes or to rule out that of a psychopath," the paper says. And it urges all candidates in the French election campaign to refrain from using the killings for political ends.

"One country united"

These sentiments are echoed in a number of commentaries in the regional press. L'Eclair des Pyrenees praises politicians for having reacted "with emotion and in a measured way". It adds that "fortunately all presidential election candidates have decided to suspend the election campaign".

"Faced with the horror of such a crime, there is no longer the right, the left, the centre, the Jewish community, the Muslim community, people of French stock or people who have become French. There is only one country united in indignation and compassion regarding the victims and their families," says La Voix du Nord.

The Midi Libre is more sceptical. It is good, the paper says, that the "partisan rantings and base quarrels among candidates" have given way to national unity. "But for how much longer?" it asks.

Indeed, the centre-left Le Monde highlights the potential impact of the shootings on the campaign. The paper notes that "the political consequences of the tragedy in Toulouse may vary greatly depending on whether this is, for example, a far-right killer, a jihadist or a lone madman."

It says that it is President Nicolas Sarkozy's "obsession" to prevent the killings from becoming too much of a factor in the campaign. But the daily adds that fingers are already being pointed, with left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon "inviting everybody, when the campaign resumes, to choose their words and quotes more carefully".

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