So, remember when the Toulouse jihadist said he would surrender yesterday? Well, so much for that. These tactics certainly seem familiar: enter into negotiations to buy time, do the opposite of what one pledged, say one has changed one’s mind, resume negotiations, bluster a lot, lather, rinse, repeat. Authorities say they have had no contact with him overnight, and there are reports trickling in again that a police operation may be underway.
This, again, may be disinformation in the event that Merah is following media reports on a phone, as may have been the case with yesterday’s deceptive blasts and announcement of a raid. That may also have been the case with the “neo-Nazi” reporting angle: perhaps authorities wanted Merah to believe they were completely off his trail. We will not know for sure until Merah is brought out of the building.
From the Guardian‘s live blog (thanks to WhupTDue):
10.34am: Police are telling France Info that Merah is resisiting the officers. One of its reporters says gunfire coming from more than one place, suggesting a possible firefight.
10.32am: Angelique is now hearing “what sounds like v heavy machine gunfire, lengthy and ongoing …”
10.30am: “Volley of shots heard and bigger blasts, ongoing,” says Angelique.
10.28am: Angelique reports hearing a volley of gunshots.
10.25am: According to TF1, Merah is in the bathroom of his flat. Apparently police are breaking down the walls one-by-one to get to him but are taking a “slow approach”
10.20am: Police are in the flat and are proceeding “step-by-step”, a police source tells Le Figaro. They still don’t know whether Merah is dead or alive as he hasn’t shown himself.
10.16am: Barcelona’s La Vanguardia is reporting that French police told Spain that Merah was believed to be attending a jihadist meeting in Girona in 2011. The Guardia Civil looked into the tip but were unable to confirm the presence of the suspect, the paper says.
10.08am: French media have footage of the blown-out windows of Merah’s flat “” apparently as a result of the blasts. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Raid officers are already in the flat.
10.05am: Police sources are saying “the siege is coming to an end”, but it’s hard to get much more information as journalists at the scene are being kept behind a security barrier a little way from the block of flats.
10.03am: The assault is under way, reports Le Figaro. Raid commandos may already be in the flat. One of the paper’s reporters says three fire engines and a GIPN van are at the scene. Looks as though we could be close to a conclusion after more than 30 hours …
9.56am: While we wait to see what the three explosions might signify, here’s some expert commentary.
FrÃ©dÃ©ric Gallois, a former commander of the French armed forces’ special operation outfit, the GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) has been talking to France Info about the siege.
If this individual has stopped talking, it doesn’t mean he’s dead. He might have decided to slip back into another confrontational phase with the police. He’s been surprised: he thought he’d be able to continue his offensive and carry on with the killings and it’s clear that he hadn’t prepared anything (in the event of a siege).”
In the end, the boasting jihadist is an amateur and a coward. Once again, the jihadists don’t often do so well when they have to fight like men.