Did France Miss the Warning Signs?

PM defends intelligence service's handling of Mohamed Merah
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2012 11:26 AM CDT
Before his death, Mohamed Merah claimed responsibility for seven murders and told police he was a member of al-Qaeda.   (AP Photo/France 2)

(Newser) – France is wondering whether more could have been done to prevent Mohamed Merah's deadly series of attacks. The al-Qaeda-inspired killer—who was shot dead yesterday after a 32-hour standoff—had a violent criminal record, had been put under surveillance after trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and was on the US no-fly list, but managed to amass an arsenal of at least eight guns and carry out three attacks in 10 days before being identified, reports Reuters.

As opposition leaders demanded answers, France's prime minister defended the country's police and intelligence services, saying "no single element" would have allowed police to arrest him before the attacks began, CNN reports. "We don't have the right in a country like ours to keep under permanent surveillance without a judicial decision someone who has committed no offense," he said, warning against confusing religious fundamentalism with terrorism. "We live in a country under the rule of law."

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