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Toulouse victims died ‘because they were Jewish,’ Hollande says

French president marks anniversary of shooting spree that killed seven, including three children and a rabbi

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

The bodies of the Toulouse Jewish school shooting victims, shrouded in prayer shawls, prior to burial at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, March 2012. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
The bodies of the Toulouse Jewish school shooting victims, shrouded in prayer shawls, prior to burial at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem, March 2012. (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

France is tightening its intelligence-gathering to prevent attacks like the one in the country’s south a year ago when a radical Muslim killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers, French President Francois Hollande said Sunday.

Marking the anniversary of the tragedy, Hollande also compared the attack on the Jewish school to the Holocaust.

“The children of Toulouse died for the same reason… because they were Jewish,” Hollande said.

Hollande said that since the time of killing spree, France had passed a law which allows the state to convict French nationals abroad on terror charges, even if they have committed no crime on home soil.

Last week President Shimon Peres met with Muslim clerics in France to commemorate the shooting. “Whoever was responsible for the murder of French citizens and Jewish children in Toulouse showed the ugly face of terror, and your words show the way of peace,” Peres told the Egyptian, African, Moroccan and Senegalese imams.

Hassen Chalghoumi, head of the Conference of Imams in France, told Peres that Muslims were also victims of Islamic extremism. “We are here to say to our brothers, the Jews and the French: We are all threatened by terror, hurt by terror and we all call with optimism for peace at the end of this terrible year,” Chalghoumi said.

On March 19, 2012, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old jihadist fanatic who claimed links to al-Qaeda, gunned down Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, along with his two young sons, Aryeh and Gavriel. He also killed Miriam Monsonego, the 8-year-old daughter of Yaacov Monsonego, director of the Ozar HaTorah school, which has since changed its name to Ohr HaTorah.

Merah also killed three paratroopers in two separate shooting attacks in the week before he targeted the school.

He was gunned down in a shootout with French police two days after the incident. French media sources said at the time that he spent time training on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where he adopted extremist ideology.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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