French police on Wednesday searched the home of the brother of Mohammed Merah, the gunman who shot and killed Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi earlier this year, and questioned a former spy chief in the probe.
A judicial official says the search at Abdelkader Merah's home in southern France stemmed from his latest round of questioning earlier this month. The official, who gave no other details, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.
Mohammed Merah killed three children, a rabbi and three French paratroopers in the name of Islam in March. The killings rocked France. Merah was shot and killed by a police sniper later that month following a standoff.
Abdelkader Merah, 29, in police custody since late March, faces preliminary charges of complicity to plotting the killings.
Investigators also questioned the former chief of France's DCRI intelligence agency this week in correlation to the investigation, the Sipa news agency reported.
Merah has already told police during preliminary questioning that he was proud of his 23-year-old sibling’s killing spree, a police source said in March.
According to reports in the French media from the time of his arrest, Abdelkader denied involvement in the attacks on French soldiers and at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school, but told police he was “proud” of his brother’s actions. He also reportedly told police that he had dined with his brother the evening before the attack at the school and spent several hours with him at the site. The Le Parisien newspaper reported Saturday that Abdelkader said he was glad that his brother died with a gun in his hands.
“His brother is at the heart of our investigation to reconstruct the path of Mohammed Merah and to try to determine if there was a structure behind it,” a source close to the investigation told French news agency AFP.
The elder brother has long been known to police for his “Salafist and fundamentalist religious convictions,” a police source told AFP.
Police also suspect that the elder Merah helped his brother steal a motorbike used in the three separate attacks, and according to reports, he admitted to accompanying his brother to a local shop in Toulouse to have the bike’s GPS disabled to avoid detection.