The same 45-caliber weapon and the same stolen scooter used by an unknown assailant to kill at least four people and injure five others at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France Monday morning appeared to have been used in two previous shooting attacks in Toulouse and Montauban, according to a source who is familiar with the investigation.
Monday's shooting attack on the Ozar Hatorah School claimed the lives of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 29, his 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons Gabriel and Arieh and 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, daughter of school headmaster Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego. A 17-year-old has been seriously injured.
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According to initial details, a man riding on a scooter opened fire on the school at around 8:10 am, as the students were arriving for the school day, and then fled the scene. A local police official said the shooter fired 15 shots at the school and its students.
News that the gun was used in recent attacks in Toulouse and Montauban fueled suspicions that a serial killer on the loose is targeting French minorities, and not only Jews. The dead and injured in the earlier attacks were paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin. Two of the soldiers were Muslim.
All three times, the attacker came on a motorcycle, apparently alone, and then sped away.
A police official said the same powerful .45-caliber handgun used in Monday's attack on the school in Toulouse was used in shootings four days ago that killed two paratroopers in nearby Montauban, and in an attack that killed a paratrooper eight days ago in Toulouse.
In Monday's attack, the killer also used a .35-caliber gun, the police official said.
Surveillance cameras captured the license plate on the unknown assailant's scooter - a Yamaha T-MAX - which was stolen in Toulouse more than a week before the first attack on French soldiers on March 11.
Toulouse school shooting
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited the Jewish school following the attack, also mentioned the resemblance to the shootings in Toulouse and Montauban.
Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego's brother told Ynet, "He and his wife are in complete shock. Miriam was a cheerful child and was unique in her beauty and talents. My brother manages the school with indescribable dedication – this was his whole life." Miriam's funeral will be held in Israel.
Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, an Israeli, recently moved to France with his wife and three children after completing his studies in Jerusalem.
Meir Masri, a former member of the Jewish community in Toulouse and a friend of the Rabbi Monsonego family, said Miriam was a "pleasant and smart child."
Community was shaken (Photo: AFP)
"There is anti-Semitism in Toulouse. It's clear to me that this was an anti-Semitic attack, despite the fact that newspaper reports claim this is not certain. Over the past few years two cars were set on fire near the synagogue. They found a different excuse each time because there were no injuries, but this time no one can say (the attack is not related to local anti-Semitism)," he said.
"Anyone can just walk into the school – there was no security. We always closed the gate at a certain hour towards the end of the day, and we talked about how the anti-Semitism can eventually lead to attacks on children."
Yonatan Sheetrit, a student at the Ozar Hatorah School recounted the tragic incident. "It was about 8 am. I was putting on my Talit, we said Kaddish (a Jewish prayer) – and then the shooting began," he told Ynet.
"At first we thought it was fireworks, we didn't understand what was going on. I was looking out the window at the courtyard, and I saw children running in all directions. I didn’t see the shooter. Suddenly I saw a friend of mine grab his stomach – I realized he was injured."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the shooting attack in Toulouse as a "savage crime" with a "murderous anti-Semitic motive."
Meanwhile, AFP reported that French police have opened an inquiry after two synagogues in Paris received a threatening letter, a source close to the probe said Monday.
The letter, reading "You are the people of Satan, Hell is waiting for you," was received at one of the synagogues during the weekend and the other on Monday morning, the source said.
AFP, AP Kobi Nahshoni contributed to the report
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