KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - French school shooting suspect Mohamed Merah was not jailed in Afghanistan in 2007, his lawyer and an Afghan provincial official said on Wednesday.
Earlier, Kandahar prison chief Ghulam Faruq had told Reuters that Afghan security forces detained Merah on December 19, 2007, and that he was sentenced to three years in jail for planting bombs in the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s birthplace.
But the Kandahar governor’s office said that account was “baseless”, citing judicial records. “Security forces in Kandahar have never detained a French citizen named Mohamed Merah,” the governor’s spokesman, Ahmad Jawed Faisal, said.
Merah’s lawyer in France, Christian Etelin, said his client was in prison in France from December 2007 until September 2009, serving a sentence for robbery with violence, and therefore could not have been in Afghanistan at the time.
Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, is suspected of killing seven people in the name of the al Qaeda militant network, including three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwestern France.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Merah had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan, and had carried out his killings in revenge for French military involvement abroad.
In Pakistan, an intelligence official who declined to be identified said Merah had never been arrested there. “We have no information about him,” the Pakistani official said.
Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and John Chalmers