France 24 and other news organizations initially reported the assault had begun on Merah’s apartment. Later reports, including those from the BBC, portray the blasts that had occurred as psy-ops, perhaps to startle him into making a move. Merah may well also be following the news coverage, and law enforcement may be employing disinformation for that reason.
Merah is an amateur, now surrounded by professionals. “Blasts at scene of Toulouse gunman siege,” from BBC News, March 21:
Three explosions have been heard at a block of flats in the French city of Toulouse where a man suspected of killing seven people has been holed up since Wednesday morning.
The interior ministry could not confirm an assault on the flat had begun.
The blasts were accompanied by flashes of orange light.
Mohammed Merah, 23, is suspected of killing four people at a Jewish school last Monday and three soldiers in two attacks last week.
The blasts sent shockwaves around the quiet residential streets around the building, reports the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Toulouse.
Earlier, deputy mayor Jean-Pierre Havrin told local media that “negotiations have finished and the assault has begun”.
However, sources from the French interior ministry have since been quoted as saying said this was beginning of an operation to put pressure on Merah.
“They [the blasts] were moves to intimidate the gunman who seems to have changed his mind and does not want to surrender,” interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Reuters.
Police had been negotiating with Merah but had not convinced him to surrender.
Police surrounded Merah’s block after two officers were shot at when they tried to get into his flat early on Wednesday morning.
Officials say he is heavily armed with a Kalashnikov high-velocity rifle, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades.
Street lights had been switched off in the vicinity of the building on Wednesday evening.
The five-storey block of flats has been evacuated, and police also moved residents from nearby buildings.
Elsewhere in the city, police are hunting for accomplices and have detained several members of Merah’s family…..