Speculation Grows: Was France Gunman a Police Informant?

'Friendly Relationship' With Police May Have Kept Merah 'Off the Radar'

The French government’s attempts to explain why gunman Mohamed Merah escaped scrutiny for so long before an ugly flurry of attacks rose to a new level with an official denial from French spy (DCRI) chief Bernard Squarcini that Merah was missed because he was a “police informant.”

Squarcini started the speculation last week, when he revealed that during the siege Merah asked to speak to a local DCRI agent that he had spoken to after a previous trip to Pakistan. The two were said to be on good terms. He insisted that the talks were an “interrogation” because the DCRI wanted an explanation as to why Merah went to Afghanistan.

Squarcini’s predecessor, Yves Bonnet, seemed to add to the speculation when he confirmed that Merah was “known” to the DCRI, and termed the local agent as his “handler.”

Merah’s trip to Israel is also getting a second look, with some unconfirmed claims that French spy agencies supported the trip. The details behind this aren’t clear either, but seems to support Bonnet’s speculation that Merah’s ties with DCRI are more than meets the eye.

Merah, 23, killed seven in a spree targeting “apostate” French Muslim soldiers and Jewish school children. The gunman said he was avenging the Palestinian people. In a raid to capture Merah, French police shot him dead.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.