Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour standoff with police, he died Thursday in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.
Italian newspaper Il Foglio reported that the French Directorate General for External Security (DGES) assisted Merah in visiting Israel. Merah was in Israel for three days and then traveled to Afghanistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan, where prosecutors said he had contacts with al-Qaeda and trained in the Pakistan militant stronghold of Waziristan. He had been on a US no-fly list since 2010.
Former intelligence chief Yves Bonnet has claimed that Merah was reporting to the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) in return for money. He said that during the standoff, Merah asked to meet with an intelligence agent who he supposedly had known for a long time. According to Bonnet, Merah's request to meet with the intelligence agent is suspicious, which was refuted by Bernard Squarcini, head of the DCRI.
“Merah was in contact with an intelligence official working for the DCRI, which makes me think. It does not matter if one calls that person an intelligence asset or traitor. I have no idea what kind of connection he had with the intelligence directorate, but still this needs to be investigated,” said Bonnet. “An intelligence officer is in a relationship; this is not an innocent or insignificant piece of information,” he said.
During the standoff Merah wanted to talk to the intelligence official that he knew long before, and all negotiations with Merah were conducted via this official. However, Squarcini, in an interview with Le Monde, only said that Merah had cordial contact with that intelligence official and wanted to contact that person to inform him of the location of the motorcycle and arms he used during the attack.
In the meantime, a 12-year-old boy was beaten outside his Jewish school in Paris by youths chanting anti-Semitic slogans, school officials said, amid high security and tensions in France following the killings of Jewish children and a rabbi last week.