At least four people, including three children, were killed when a man on a scooter opened fire outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwestern France yesterday, officials said.
The attack also left several injured, two of them seriously, and followed the killing of three soldiers in two separate shootings in the same region last week by a man who escaped on a scooter.
BFM TV news channel said that the gun used in the attack at the Ozar Hatorah school was of the same caliber as that used in the soldiers’ shootings, but a spokesman for the interior ministry could not immediately confirm this.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy canceled other appointments and was on his way to Toulouse yesterday morning, accompanied by French Education Minister Luc Chatel and CRIF French Jewish association president Richard Prasquier.
“I saw two people dead in front of the school, an adult and a child. Inside, it was a vision of horror, the bodies of two small children,” a distraught father whose child attends the school told RTL radio.
“I did not find my son, apparently he fled when he saw what happened. How can they attack something as sacred as a school, attack children only 60cm tall?” he said.
Several other people were injured, two of them seriously.
A rabbi at the school, identified as Rahamim Sabag, told Israeli television that the dead were a 30-year-old rabbi who taught at the school, the rabbi’s five-year-old son and two eight-year-old children, one of them the daughter of the school’s principal.
A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, expressed outrage at the killings.
“We are following with great shock reports coming from Toulouse and we trust the French authorities will solve this crime and bring those responsible to justice,” Palmor said.
About 50 investigators are already looking into the killings of two soldiers on Thursday in the town of Montauban, close to Toulouse, as they tried to withdraw money from a cash machine close to the barracks of the 17th Parachute Regiment.
A third soldier was killed the previous weekend in Toulouse. Investigators had already confirmed on Friday that the same weapon had been used in both incidents.