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Archive for March 24th, 2012

France questioned on Thursday whether its intelligence service had blundered by allowing a young Muslim with a violent criminal record, spotted twice in Afghanistan, to become the first al Qaeda-inspired killer to strike on its soil.

Opposition leaders, including far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, demanded to know how Merah was able to shoot dead three Jewish children and four adults despite being allegedly under surveillance and having been questioned as recently as November by the DCRI domestic intelligence agency.

“Since the DCRI was following Mohamed Merah for a year, how come they took so long to locate him?” Socialist party security spokesman Francois Rebsamen asked on the JDD.fr website.

Merah, a French citizen of Algerian extraction, was also able to amass a cache of at least eight guns under the noses of French intelligence, including several Colt .45 pistols of the kind he used in the shootings, but also at least one Uzi submachine gun, a Sten gun and a pump action shotgun.

In Washington, two U.S. officials said Merah was on a U.S. government “no fly” list, barring him from boarding any U.S.-bound aircraft. The officials said that his name had been on the list for some time. The officials said the entry included sufficient biometric detail to make clear the man on the blacklist was the same person involved in the Toulouse shootings. He was put on the list because U.S. officials deemed him a potential threat to aviation, one of the officials said.

Merah’s name was on top of a DCRI list of 20 persons to be particularly closely watched in the southwestern Midi-Pyrenees region. Yet the agency appeared to have lost his trace.

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