Washington, March 27 — The gunman who went on a shooting spree last week at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, killing three children and a teacher, filmed the killings and had the footage sent to al Jazeera, which decided Tuesday not to air it.
The Paris office of the Qatar-based news outlet reportedly received a USB drive with a video of the killings that had been edited to include religious songs, distorted cries of the victims and verses from the Koran.
The drive was accompanied by a letter claiming the attacks were carried out in the name of al Qaeda, according to the station’s bureau chief. A brief statement posted on the station's Web site Tuesday stated, "Al-Jazeera will not air video of French shootings."
It was a stark example of the way terrorists seek to manipulate the media to spread their messages.
Prosecutors said that during the killings, gunman Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian background, was wearing a recording device.
Paris station Bureau Chief Zied Tarrouche described the video, saying, "You can hear gunshots at the moment of the killings. You can hear the voice of this person who has committed these assassinations. You can hear also the cries of the victims, and the voices were distorted."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy as well as the victims’ family members had requested al Jazeera not show the footage.
A week earlier Merah had killed four French soldiers, including Muslims.
His final murder spree occurred March 19, when the gunman methodically opened fire at the Otsar HatorahJewish school in Toulouse. Jonathan Sandler, 30, his sons Gabriel, 3, and Arieh, 6, and 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego were laid to rest in Israel last week.
Merah was later killed in a stand-off with French police, who surrounded his Toulouse home for more than 30 hours.
Before the police raid in Toulouse, a caller to the France 24 television studio claimed responsibility for the shootings at the school and of four French soldiers last week. He said the shootings were carried out in connection with al Qaeda and that they marked the beginning of a larger campaign. Hours later, a parcel bomb exploded outside of Indonesian embassy in Paris.