Report: French gunman Merah buried near Toulouse

French gunman buried in Toulouse
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Story highlights

  • Merah had an evening burial in cemetery on city's outskirts, French TV reports
  • French president: Mohammed Merah should have been buried without further debate
  • Merah's father says he condemns what his son did, but he should have been taken alive
  • Merah was killed in a police siege after he was accused of killing seven people
Mohammed Merah, the gunman blamed for seven killings in the south of France this month, was buried Thursday evening near the southwestern city of Toulouse, CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported.
The hearse believed to be carrying his body arrived under French police escort at the Cornebarrieu cemetery on the outskirts of the city, BFM-TV said.
The reported burial follows a day of confusion over where Merah would be laid to rest
Algeria refused to accept Merah's body for burial earlier Thursday, his father said, citing French authorities.
Merah's father, Mohammed Ben Allal, wanted his son buried in the family's ancestral home of Algeria after he was killed by police at the end of a 32-hour standoff.
The French Foreign Ministry refused to comment on where Merah would be buried, calling it "a private matter." The Algerian government did not immediately confirm it had refused Merah's body.
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His uncle Jamal Azizi said the family was "surprised and can't understand why the Algerian government has refused to let us bury our son in his home country."
Merah was born in France to a family originally from Algeria.
Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, then told BFM-TV that it was his understanding that Merah was to be buried near Toulouse, the city where he shot five of his seven victims.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he would prefer that Merah be buried without further debate.
"He was French, let him be buried and let's not create any controversy about it," he said.
Abdallah Zekri, a representative of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said earlier that the mosque was making arrangements to bury Merah within the next day.
The mosque wanted to "proceed to a discreet and swift burial and close this chapter," he said on BFM-TV.
Merah was killed March 22 at the apartment in the city of Toulouse where he was holed up.
He was wanted for the killings of three French paratroopers, a rabbi, and three Jewish children ages 4, 5, and 7. Two other people were seriously wounded in shootings blamed on him.
His father is planning to sue France for killing his son, he told CNN Arabic.
Ben Allal said he would sue because France had the means to capture his son alive and prosecute him, but instead chose to use violence and shoot him dead.
He said he had been told by another son, Rasheed, that Algerian authorities had refused to receive the body and that he had been told this was for security reasons.
"As a parent and an Algerian citizen, I have to accept reality and emphasize that I respect the decision of the state regarding my situation," he told CNN Arabic.
"I totally condemn what my son Mohammed Merah did in France," he said, adding that he believed his son must have been tricked.
Merah was tracked down by police 10 days after the first shooting on March 11 and fatally shot as the standoff came to a bloody end.
Sarkozy on Thursday rejected Merah's father's accusation that his death was avoidable.
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"As head of state, I would have preferred that Mohammed Merah be arrested alive. The police did a remarkable job, and I consider that any debate about that question is shameful," he said on BFM-TV.
Merah's uncle, meanwhile, denied statements by French authorities that Merah was an al Qaeda sympathizer and that he had traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan to train to use arms.
Azizi, the uncle, said Merah was a victim of an extremist group that he got to know while he was in jail.
Authorities have said they placed Merah, a petty criminal, under surveillance after he visited Pakistan and Afghanistan. Critics have asked why he was not being more closely watched.
He claimed to have attended an al Qaeda training camp, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, and was on the U.S. no-fly list for that reason, a U.S. intelligence official said.
The Paris bureau of Al Jazeera received video of the shootings in the mail this week, along with an unsigned letter in error-riddled French claiming al Qaeda was responsible for the attacks, Paris bureau chief Zied Tarrouche said Tuesday.
The network decided not to broadcast or distribute the video, it announced later that day, saying the material "does not meet our Code of Ethics."
The edited footage contains images of the killings of seven people, along with music, religious singing and readings from the Quran, the bureau chief said.
"You can hear the gunshots at the time of the killings. ... You can hear the cries of the victims," Tarrouche said on BFM-TV.
Al Jazeera gave the material to police, but kept a copy, he said.
The video arrived by mail Monday on a USB stick, Tarrouche told CNN. The memory stick contained two clips with a total of 25 minutes of material, he said.
The video of the shootings on March 11, 15 and 19 was apparently recorded by a camera around the gunman's neck, Tarrouche said. Police said earlier they thought that Merah had filmed the killings and that they had recovered video after he was killed.
On Sunday, police charged Merah's brother, Abdelkader, with complicity in seven murders and two attempted murders and took him into custody, the Paris prosecutor's office said. Authorities also charged the brother with conspiracy to prepare acts of terrorism and group theft, the prosecutor's office said.
Abdelkader Merah feels he is being made a scapegoat for the crimes his brother is accused of, his lawyer Anne-Sophie Laguens said.
Police also questioned Mohammed Merah's mother and his brother's girlfriend, but released them without charge, the Paris prosecutor said.