The brother of the gunman who killed seven people in France has been taken to Paris for further questioning, officials said, adding that the shooter’s mother had been released without charges.
Abdelkader Merah, the elder brother of Mohammed Merah, was transferred to the headquarters of the domestic intelligence agency on Saturday, Michel Crepin, police union spokesman, said.
Abdelkader Merah’s girlfriend was also taken to Paris. Both were arrested on Tuesday as negotiators sought their help trying to persuade Mohammed Merah to turn himself in.
The mother of Mohammed and Abdelkader Merah, Zoulika Aziri, has said she needs an “explanation” to determine how she could have prevented her younger son from committing a series of shootings in southwestern France.
Jean-Yves Gougnaud, Aziri’s lawyer told journalists on Saturday that “at no time could she have imagined that her son was the one who did it. She was even telling people around her to protect their kids, to watch them”.
|Mohammed Merah: From petty criminal to killer
Gougnaud went on to describe Aziri as “a caring person, she is extremely kind, and, as I said in this case, she really co-operated from the start”.
Aziri was released without charge late on Friday, a judicial official said on Saturday after being questioned by police concerning her son’s killing sprees.
Mohammed 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 apartment in Toulouse during which he admitted killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three soldiers in three separate attacks.
Police have found explosives in a car Abdelkader Merah owned, according to the public prosecutor leading the case. He was already known to security services for having helped smuggle fighters into Iraq in 2007.
A police source quoted Abdulkader Merah as saying he was “proud” of his brother’s actions. The source said he also admitted being present when the scooter police say was used in the killings was stolen, even though he had said he knew nothing of his brother’s intentions.
Intelligence chief Bernard Squarcini told the daily Le Monde on Friday that there was no evidence Mohamed Merah belonged to any radical Islamist network.
French police had in the past found that Abdulkader Merah, and a sister, had links to a 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.
The shootings have shifted the focus of political debate away from France’s economic woes, a month before presidential elections and have played to the strengths of President Nicolas Sarkozy as he fights for re-election. Polls show that about two-thirds of voters approved of his handling of the attacks.