All Wednesday, hundreds of Special Police surrounded an apartment building in Southwest France, where Police have cornered a suspected gunman, wanted for an Al-Qaida linked terror spree.
A former Alaskan family has a front seat to this standoff. Police reported the suspect was in a building just a few hundred feet from their home.
A few years ago, Morgan Huet and his wife Pam Crosby left Anchorage, Alaska to call Toulouse, France their new home. The city is now under international spotlight.
The Interior Minister said the suspect, 24-year-old Mohamed Merah from Toulouse, fatally shot 7 people, including 3 children.
“The motives were also very clear, he said it was to protest against France’s recent law banning the Islamic veil and also protesting against France’s participation in the Afghanistan war effort,” said Ebba Kalondo, a Journalist with FRANCE 24. “As for the attack of the Jewish school, he was adamant that it was revenge for the killings what he turned were ‘my little brothers and sisters’ in Palestine.”
Crosby said the entire neighborhood was in the dark. Police have cut off their electricity and blocked the streets.
The building police have surrounded is where 3 officers were reported wounded after gunfire, trying to arrest the suspect. It’s also, Crosby said, about 300 feet away from her home.
“If you poke your head out of our front door, at the end of the street, it’s barricaded with a police car,” said Crosby. “And there’s tons of journalists. My husband said there’s probably 50 journalists down the street.”
Crosby said her family stayed inside all day, passing on their normal routines, like their daily walk. They didn't want to take any chances, especially after police evacuated the next street over.
“That gives me a bit more apprehension to think, oh gosh, they’re evacuating the whole street, is there a risk he can get out? That’s close to us, that’s close to where we’re living,” said Crosby.
As developments unfold, the Huet family is just one of many in a densely populated neighborhood where a standoff is keeping their quiet street on high alert.
Update Thursday from the Associated Press:
TOULOUSE, France (AP) - French police say a 32-hour standoff with an Islamic extremist in the city of Toulouse is over.
France's interior minister says Mohamed Merah jumped out a window, gun in hand, during a shootout with police, and was found dead outside with a gunshot wound to the head.
Police say Merah had declared that he was proud of killing seven people in three shooting attacks from a motorcycle over the past 10 days.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says an investigation is under way to see if the suspect had any accomplices.