Sarkozy says France will not give in to terror threat


PRESIDENT NICOLAS Sarkozy has said France will hold firm against “terror and barbarism” after the killing of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse.

In a nationally televised address last night, Mr Sarkozy said the terror alert in the Midi-Pyrénées region had been raised to its highest level and police reinforcements were on their way to Toulouse to assist in the manhunt.

Police have linked the attack on the Ozar Hatorah school with two separate shooting incidents in which three soldiers died in the region last week.

The soldiers, one of Caribbean and two of Muslim origin, were also killed in drive-by shootings, which a spokeswoman for the local prosecutors’ office said appeared to have been carried out by the same man.

“We cannot back down in the face of terror,” Mr Sarkozy said. “Barbarism, savagery, cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win. The republic is too strong for that, much too strong.”

All the candidates in the presidential election suspended their campaigns yesterday as shock spread over the worst anti-Semitic incident in France in 30 years. In August 1982, six people were killed in a grenade and shooting attack on rue des Rosiers, in a Jewish neighbourhood in central Paris.

A heavy police presence remained in place last night around the school in a quiet, residential district about 10 minutes’ drive from central Toulouse.

Security was stepped up at schools and religious establishments in the region and a moment of silence will be observed today in all French schools. “I have a four-year-old son and I don’t know if I’ll bring him to school in the morning,” said Stéphane Quignard, a Toulouse taxi driver. “He could go after anyone.”

The killer was wearing a full face helmet and escaped on what police said was a 500cc Yamaha TMAX scooter stolen in Toulouse earlier this month.

The same scooter and the same .45 calibre handgun were used in last week’s shooting of the paratroopers.

“This tragedy has left the entire national community distraught,” Mr Sarkozy declared at the scene. He said the interior minister, Claude Guéant, would remain in the city until the killer was caught.

The killings were strongly condemned across the political spectrum. “This is not just one school, Jews, or just one city which have been affected, but all of France,” said François Hollande, the socialist frontrunner for the presidency, after he flew to Toulouse to visit the school.

Both Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande later attended a ceremony at a Paris synagogue to commemorate the victims.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, said politics and the election campaign should be put aside at times like this. “There is no more right or left, there is only the French people, wounded in its heart,” she said.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu led worldwide condemnation, describing the attack as a “despicable murder of Jews”.

His foreign ministry said the families of the victims had expressed a desire to bury their dead in Israel and that this would be arranged.

Security has also been stepped up around army barracks throughout the region.

French soldiers in the southwest were told last week not to wear their uniforms outside barracks.

Two men died, and a third was seriously injured, in an attack last Thursday in the town of Montauban.

The three men, aged between 24 and 28, were shot while in uniform as they queued to withdraw money from a cash machine close to the barracks of the 17th parachute regiment.

A third soldier, aged 30, was killed the previous weekend while out of uniform in Toulouse.