The Envoy
  • Mohammed Merah, the 23-year-old French gunman who confessed to killing seven people in the city of Toulouse in southwest France, is dead after being shot in the head by a police sniper during a final dramatic shootout with French police. It was the culmination of a 31-hour standoff with hundreds of French anti-terror police who had surrounded the building where Merah had barricaded himself.

    French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters Thursday that Merah had ceased communicating with negotiators around midnight, after discussing a possible surrender, giving rise to speculation he might have committed suicide. "But when heavily armed paramilitary police entered the apartment through the door and several windows about 10:30 a.m., Gueant said, Merah burst out of the bathroom, blasting away with several weapons," the Washington Post's Edward Cody reported. Gueant said Mareh had fired at police before jumping out of the window where "he was found dead on the ground below."

    The Interior Minister wouldn't answer whether Merah had died in the fall or was shot by police, though France 24 commentators noted that the jump from the first-floor window was unlikely to have killed him. French prosecutors later clarified in a news conference Thursday that Merah was shot in the head by a police sniper after he tried to flee.

    French prosecutor Francois Molins also confirmed Thursday that they had found video in Mareh's apartment, apparently of his perpetrating the killings. A France 24 news editor, Ebba Kalondo, said Mareh had claimed in a phone call this week with her that he had filmed all of the shootings. Kalonda also remarked that Mareh was exceptionally composed in their 11-minute call, which came shortly before police closed in on his building Wednesday.


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  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, in Paris in 2010.Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad's infamous luxury shopping sprees may be coming to an end.

    European foreign ministers due to meet Friday in Brussels are expected to slap new sanctions on the dictator's wife.

    The sanctions, if agreed, would mean the British-born Asma al-Assad "will no longer be able to travel to the EU or buy from EU-based shops, in her own name," Reuters reports. The proposed new measures come as the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to endorse a statement pledging support for former U.N. chief Kofi Annan's peace mediation efforts in Syria.

    Recently released emails, allegedly written by Bashar al-Assad and his wife and obtained by Syrian opposition activists, document Asma al-Assad's shopping obsession. In the emails, Asma al-Assad, a former investment banker, discusses Christian Louboutin shoes and mulls European clothing and furniture purchases, even as thousands of her countrymen were being slaughtered in the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown.

    Under the subject line, "Christian Louboutin shoes coming shortly," Asma al-Assad asked an unidentified friend by email, "Does anything catch your eye? These pieces are not made for the general public," according to a Feb. 3, 2012, email posted by the Guardian newspaper.

    "Haha.. Ur gonna laugh, I actually LOVE them!!!" the unidentified correspondent responds. "But I don't think they're not going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately."

    Read More »from EU could limit Syrian first lady’s lavish shopping sprees

  • Three children and their teacher who were killed this week during the shooting attack on their Jewish school in Toulouse, France, were buried in Jerusalem Wednesday.

    Miriam Monsonego (Facebook, via the Algemeiner)Jonathan Sandler, 30, a rabbi and teacher at Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, his two sons Gabriel, 3, and Arieh, 6, and Miriam Monsonego, 7, the daughter of the school's principal, were buried at Givat Shaul's Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem Wednesday morning, surrounded by thousands of mourners.

    French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who accompanied the victims and their families on the flight to Israel, spoke at the somber ceremony. "France will do everything to ensure nothing like this unbelievable tragedy ever happens again," Juppe said, the Jerusalem Post reported. "France will not tolerate terror."

    As the funeral was under way, elite French counter terrorism police were surrounding a residential building in northern Toulouse where the suspected perpetrator of the killings, Mohammed Merah, was barricaded. Merah is described as a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent who has traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, served time for non-terrorism related offenses in French prison, and has reportedly professed allegiance to al-Qaida.

    Read More »from French victims in the Jewish school attack are buried in Israel

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