Al-Jazeera decides against showing Merah video footage of killings


AL-JAZEERA television has decided not to broadcast video footage of the seven killings in southern France after it received clips that had been filmed by the gunman with a camera strapped to his body.

The Qatar-based channel had come under pressure from the French government and the country’s broadcast regulator not to air the video, which arrived by post at its Paris office on Monday.

The footage was taken by Mohamed Merah as he killed three soldiers, three children and a rabbi in three attacks in and around Toulouse this month. Merah was shot dead by police in a gunfight after a 32-hour siege at his apartment last week.

Al-Jazeera said it would not air the video because it did not add any information that was not already in the public domain. The network passed the footage to the French police to help with their investigation and said it was declining all requests from other media outlets for copies.

A memory stick containing the video was posted anonymously to the al-Jazeera office from Toulouse last week, but police suspect it had been sent by someone other than Merah.

The killer’s brother is under investigation for complicity in the crimes, while police have not ruled out the possibility that others could be implicated.

Urging television stations not to air the video, foreign minister Alain Juppé said it could have a dangerous effect on people inclined to radicalism.

“This incitement to violence, to murder, on minds that are often fragile or deranged, is absolutely abhorrent,” he said.

The fallout from the Toulouse killings continued to dominate France’s election campaign yesterday. After a meeting with police chiefs, President Nicolas Sarkozy said he had asked France’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies to make extensive checks on people posing a security risk and to speed up deportations in public order cases.

“Extremists play with our administrative formalities. Our duty is to be more efficient,” Mr Sarkozy said.

The authorities have been sharply criticised this week for not having kept Merah under surveillance after discovering he had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years.

Four opinion polls yesterday showed Mr Sarkozy was narrowing the gap behind the socialist François Hollande as the April 22nd first-round vote approaches, although all four gave Mr Hollande a 54-46 win over Mr Sarkozy in a vote-off.

A survey by pollster BVA found only 8 per cent of respondents said security fears would affect their vote. This came far behind economic issues including purchasing power for 42 per cent of respondents and unemployment for 30 per cent.

The survey found 51 per cent of voters thought the Toulouse killings would have a major impact on the overall vote, but only 17 per cent thought it would influence their own vote.