Wed, Mar 21, 2012 - Page 1 News List

France launches massive manhunt for school killer

LEAD:Authorities said the assailant had a device that may have been used to film the attack, but no footage of the attack had been found on the Internet so far

AP, TOULOUSE, FRANCE

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, center, and French Minister of Education Luc Chatel, right, observe a minute of silence with the director and pupils from the Francois Couperin College yesterday in Paris, France.

Photo: Reuters

Hundreds of police blanketed southern France yesterday, searching for a gunman — possibly a racist, anti-Semitic spree killer — who killed four people at a Jewish school and may have filmed his attack.

Authorities suspect the same killer was behind attacks last week on French paratroopers of North African and French Caribbean origin.

France was reeling yesterday after Monday’s shooting in the southern city of Toulouse, the deadliest school shooting in the country and the bloodiest attack on Jewish targets in decades. Schools across the country held a moment of silence to honor the victims, who are to be buried in Israel.

“The children are exactly like you,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy told junior high children in Paris after joining them for the moment of silence. “That could have happened here.”

He vowed to find the killer.

French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the attacker was “wearing around his neck an apparatus” that could be used to film and post video online.

He said that gave investigators new clues to the killer’s “profile,” though he admitted they don’t appear close to an arrest.

Gueant described the suspect as “someone very cold, very determined, very much a master of his movements and by consequence, very cruel.”

In Monday’s shooting, the attacker first gunned down a rabbi and his four-year-old and five-year-old sons, then chased down the seven-year-old daughter of the school principal, shooting her dead at point-blank range.

Asked whether the gunman recorded the scene, Gueant said: “We can imagine that.”

However, he added that authorities have not yet found any images of the killings online.

Gueant said authorities are studying reports about three paratroopers kicked out of a regiment near Toulouse in 2008 for suspected neo-Nazi activity, but said this was one of many leads and “not favored any more than the others.”

He stressed the need to increase security at synagogues and other Jewish sites in France.

Hundreds of police were looking for the killer, the terror threat level was raised to scarlet across a swath of southern France — the highest level since the four-point system was created in 2003.

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