20
Mar

A Tragedy in Toulouse: Could a series of seemingly race-inspired killings in France upend the presidential election?

By Eric Pape

Just as the week was beginning in southwestern France, on March 19, a man appeared at the entrance of a small Jewish school in Toulouse wielding a pair of powerful guns, including a semi-automatic pistol. As parents dropped off their children on the sidewalk, or left to take younger kids to other nearby schools, the first shots rang out — every parent’s worst nightmare. He continued into the Ozar Hatorah middle and high school, where he shot at adults and children, witnesses said in French radio and television interviews, sometimes at nearly point-blank range.

Unlike many American-style school attacks, in which assailants just go deeper and deeper into the carnage until they are killed by responding authorities or they shoot themselves, the Jewish school killer finished his loathsome business, went outside to his white motor scooter, and rode off.

The public prosecutor of Toulouse, Michel Valet, brought the horror of the cold-blooded killer home. “He shot at everything there was in front of him, children and adults,” Valet said before reporters in Toulouse, “and some children were followed inside the school.”

The death toll included a 30-year-old Franco-Israeli professor of Judaism who had recently moved back to France from Jerusalem, his two sons, and another girl. The oldest of the murdered children was reportedly seven years old. The youngest was just four. (A 17-year-old is also seriously wounded.)

In isolation, the attack might appear to be the act of a lunatic, probably an anti-Semitic one, but an array of factors make this attack into something even more troubling, particularly that it is the third murderous attack in eight days — and that all seem to be linked to race and/or religion.

The first attack came on March 11, when a man responded to an online advertisement by a French soldier selling a motorcycle. But, authorities believe that instead of buying the bike, the man shot the soldier in cold blood. Four days later, a man wearing a motorcycle helmet attacked three off-duty military paratroopers as they withdrew cash from a bank machine in the town of Montauban, near their base, some 35 miles from Toulouse. That attack killed two soldiers and left a third struggling for his life. The three dead soldiers are all of North African descent, while the gravely injured survivor is from a French territory in the Caribbean. They are all dark-skinned.

Barely a dozen hours after the Jewish school attack, authorities concluded that the seven killings were the work of the same man using at least one of the same guns and who rode the same motor scooter, although repainted white for the March 19 attack. Read more…

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on March 19, 2012.

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