Police finally stormed the apartment of the man accused of shooting seven people in France and the gunman is now dead after a bloody shootout. Police surrounded the home of Mohammed Merah more than 24 hours ago and have been involved in a standoff ever since. Witnesses reported hearing gunfire and explosions around 11:30 a.m. local time this morning as it appears that police decided to storm the apartment after earlier reports that they believed he might already be dead. (The BBC broadcast audio of a massive burst of automatic gunfire coming from the area around the apartment.) According to reports from multiple outlets, three French police officers have been wounded and the gunman has been found dead. Those reports have still not been confirmed by official sources, nor is clear if the gunman was killed by police or committed suicide.
An AFP source speaking on BBC World News says that there had been no movement or communication from Merah since 10:45 last night, but the he suddenly opened fire this morning, prompting police to launch the raid.
UPDATE (7:00 a.m.): French Interior Minister Claude Géaunt just gave a statement to the press confirming that the Merah is dead. He says police threw grenades into the house and got no response from Merah. They entered the apartment and saw no sign of him, but the gunman was hiding in the bathroom. He then came storming out of the bathroom shooting with "ferocity" at officers, then jumped out the window and was found dead on the ground. It wasn't made clear if he died from the fall or was possibly shot as he attempted to escape. Geaunt said that two officers were injured.
Update (10:38 a.m. EST): Prosecutor Francois Molins confirmed to the Associated Press that Merah was shot in the head during the exchange of gunfire in his apartment. After he came out of the bathroom, " 'Merah continued to fire "until he was hit by a retaliatory shot from the RAID (elite police unit), which felled him with a bullet to the head' Molins said." Police also confirmed that Merah had filmed all three killings, claiming to have posted them online. When shooting the first soldier he can reportedly be heard saying "You kill my brothers; I kill you." During the second shooting, he reportedly yelled "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great."
This is a breaking story, so more updates to come....
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