New York, NY, March 22, 2012 … As the standoff with the suspect in the killing of seven people in southwestern France came to a chilling conclusion earlier today, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) commended French law enforcement for identifying and stopping the terrorist before he could strike again. The League said it was "now abundantly clear" that the homegrown extremist responsible for the killings was "motivated by a caustic mix of Islamic radicalism and anti-Semitism."
On Tuesday, French law enforcement surrounded the apartment of Mohammed Merah, 23, a French citizen of Algerian descent, who was described by the authorities as a homegrown terrorist. Merah was later shot and killed by law enforcement officials after a prolonged standoff during which he barricaded himself inside his apartment building and admitted responsibility for the shootings of three military soldiersand a rabbi and three schoolchildren at a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Reports indicate that Merah traveled to and received training in Pakistan and Afghanistan and identified with the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. He may have also had links to Forsane Alizza, a radical organization that was banned by the French government in January for supporting terrorism. Merah reportedly told authorities he had targeted the Jewish school to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children in Gaza.
Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
We are relieved that French law enforcement authorities have finally identified and stopped the terrorist murderer who was responsible for these heinous crimes. It is now abundantly clear that the suspect was deeply infected with hate, and motivated by a caustic mix of Islamic radicalism and anti-Semitism. We deeply empathize with the French people, who have just lived through the nightmare of seeing innocent men and children gunned down by a homegrown terrorist who had blended in to French society while absorbing the hateful and anti-Semitic ideology of Al Qaeda.
We wish the French authorities could have done more to identify and apprehend this murderous individual earlier, so that this terrible national tragedy could have been prevented.
This incident should serve as a tragic reminder to people everywhere of the need for continued vigilance by law enforcement officials in Europe, the United States and around the world in monitoring the threat of radical Islam, from its sources in the conflict areas in the Middle East to its global offshoots around the world. This should be particularly true when there is evidence of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity. Anti-Semitism should serve as the proverbial "canary in the coal mine," for its presence often serves as the first warning signal to a greater, more lethal threat.
This week, the Anti-Defamation League issued a poll of anti-Semitic attitudes in ten European countries, which found that large segments of the populations in those countries, including France, continue to subscribe to some of the most pernicious, classical anti-Jewish canards.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.