French gunman's brother faces legal proceedings

PARIS Sat Mar 24, 2012 4:40am IST

Members of the media work across the street from the boarded balcony and window of the ground floor flat at the five-storey apartment building where special forces police staged the assault on the gunman Mohamed Merah, in Toulouse March 23, 2012. REUTERS/Jean-Philippe Arles

Members of the media work across the street from the boarded balcony and window of the ground floor flat at the five-storey apartment building where special forces police staged the assault on the gunman Mohamed Merah, in Toulouse March 23, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jean-Philippe Arles

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PARIS (Reuters) - The brother of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people in France faces legal proceedings along with his girlfriend as police investigate the case, but his mother should soon be released from custody, a legal source said on Friday.

Mohamed Merah's mother, his elder brother Abdelkader and that brother's girlfriend were detained by police on Tuesday in the southern city of Toulouse as negotiators sought their help trying to persuade Merah to turn himself in.

Merah, 23, was shot dead by a sniper on Thursday after a gun battle with police that ended a more than 30-hour siege at his Toulouse apartment during which he admitted to killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three soldiers in three separate attacks in the preceding days.

Abdelkader and his girlfriend, whose name was not given, will be transferred to a detention centre at the headquarters of the DCRI domestic intelligence agency in Paris and brought before a judge who will decide whether there are grounds for opening legal proceedings over possible links with Merah's attacks, the legal source said.

Police found explosives in a car Abdelkader owned on Wednesday, according to the public prosecutor leading the case, Francois Molins, and he was already known to security services for having helped smuggle jihadist militants into Iraq in 2007.

DCRI head Bernard Squarcini told the daily Le Monde on Friday that there was no evidence Merah belonged to any radical Islamist network and he appeared to have turned fanatic alone.

Yet investigators are still trying to establish if he had any logistical or ideological support or was a true "lone wolf".

Merah's brother, and a sister, were known to have studied the Koran in Egypt in 2010 and French police had in the past found links between them and a radical Islamist group based in southern France led by a Syrian-born Frenchman dubbed "The White Emir" by French media because of his fair hair and beard.

(Reporting by Gerard Bon; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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