The killings in Toulouse last week Wednesday by Mohamed Merah, 23, described as “polite and shy” by neighbours, but who then went on to become radicalised in Afghanistan, once again raises the issue of integration and immigration in France.
Merah seemed like an ordinary, young guy who liked clubbing, football and cars – yet went on to to become one of France’s notorious killers.
Merah’s irreprehensible actions, the worst terror France has seen in 15 years, were deliberately targeted: four soldiers, three Jewish children and a Rabbi were murdered by Merah.
A man claiming to be Merah called the popular news station France 24 whilst being held at ransom within his apartment at 1am on Wednesday March 21st and said his actions were directed against France’s military presence in Afghanistan, the killing of Palestinians and the ban on wearing the full face veil, although it would seem such extreme actions would have a deeper agenda, with others also responsible, especially as Merah stated he was working with a group allied to al-Qa’eda.
Once again he was described as articulate and polite by the senior news editor, Ebba Kalondo.
The shootings have once again brought race and immigration issues to the fore. Nicolas Sarkozy, along with other major presidential candidates, rightly suspended their campaigns. Now back on the campaign trial, with one month till polling day, Sarkozy looks tougher on policing and security – his strongest areas – and his lead against Socialist rival François Hollande has narrowed since the incident.
Sarkozy pledged to introduce new legislation to make it a crime to look at websites encouraging terrorism and to travel specifically for the purposes of terrorism training. This shooting may remind French citizens of an incident that happened in 1993, where Sarkozy, as Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, dealt with an assailant, who took children hostage in a nursery and led a number of children out after successfully negotiating their release.
The next few weeks will reveal how the Front National will further seek to exploit the actions of Merah; they will likely say this proves their claim that immigration is dangerous for France.
Marine Le Pen claimed:
“The risk of fundamentalism has been under-estimated in our country.”
With Sarkozy promptly hitting back by saying the attack on French institutions and politics was unfair.
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Terrorist acts are rare, but a real threat to the national security of France. Merah, when speaking to France 24, said it was only the beginning. It is unlikely the major presidential candidates will choose to use this tragedy for political gain, however a growing security dilemma faces them and it will take skill and wit to come up with a comprehensive answer of how to face it.