Scott Sayare and Steven Erlanger reported for the New York Times from Toulouse, France on Thursday on the cornering of the killer of seven people in France, including three children: "Shooting Suspect, Cornered and Armed, Tells French Police That He Killed 7 ." The story was filed before the suspect, Mohammad Merah, was shot dead in a police raid.
Merah's confession obviously made it hard for the Times to avoid the fact he's an Islamic radical inspired by Al Qaeda:
A 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent claimed responsibility on Wednesday for the methodical killings of four men and three children in this region over the past 10 days, officials said, after barricading himself in a small apartment building in Toulouse surrounded by hundreds of police officers.
The suspect was identified as Mohammed Merah, 23, a former garage mechanic who had made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and said that he had been trained by Al Qaeda. Mr. Merah remained retrenched in an apartment building in the quiet neighborhood of Côte Pavée into the early hours of Thursday morning, in a standoff that had gone on for nearly a day. Several explosions and gunshots could be heard just before 2 a.m. Thursday, a few hours after three blasts rattled the area in what French news media reported was an attempt to destroy a window at the suspect’s apartment, as the police tried to let in the night cold in the hope that Mr. Merah might surrender peacefully.
Yet the paper could not completely abandon the irresponsible, discredited idea , forwarded by Paris bureau chief Erlanger on Wednesday, that the killing somehow resulted from President Sarkozy's campaign appeals to the right wing.
Before the authorities said on Wednesday that their prime suspect claimed ties to Al Qaeda, many analysts had speculated that he had perhaps been motivated by extreme right-wing passions coinciding with the next month’s presidential election, and most of the candidates have suspended their campaigns.
In addition to Mr. Sarkozy, who is trying to draw voters from the far-right National Front Party, Wednesday’s funeral for the soldiers in Montauban was attended by several other candidates, including the Socialist frontrunner François Hollande and the National Front’s Marine Le Pen.