Police in pre-dawn raid on Toulouse shooting suspect



French police searching for a gunman who shot dead four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse have surrounded a house in the north of the city.

The man inside the building where the operation is taking place has claimed affiliation to al-Qaeda, Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters.

Two police officers are reported injured in several exchanges of fire.

The man's mother has been brought to the scene, Mr Gueant said, and his brother is under arrest.

"The suspect's mother... was asked to make contact with her son, to reason with him, but she did not want to, saying she had little influence on him," Mr Gueant said.

Mr Gueant told French TV that the man informed police he wanted to "avenge Palestinian children".

The suspect also denounced French "crimes" in Afghanistan.

"He [the suspect] was in the DCRI's sights, as were others, after the first two attacks," an unnamed official told Agence France-Presse, referring to France's domestic intelligence service.

"Then the criminal investigation police brought in crucial evidence," the official added.

Police wearing helmets and flak jackets have cordoned off the residential area of Toulouse where the raid is happening, an eyewitness told the Liberation newspaper.

Prosecutors said other operations were underway to track down possible accomplices.

Other emergency services are also in attendance.

A huge manhunt has been under way in France amid fears the killer may strike again, after Monday's shooting, and the killing of three soldiers last week.

Meanwhile, the funerals of the rabbi and three children killed in Monday's attack are due in Jerusalem in the coming hours.

Israeli police said they expected thousands of people to attend.

Also on Wednesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to attend a memorial service for three soldiers killed in two attacks last week which police have linked to the Toulouse shootings.

The same gun and the same scooter were used in all the attacks. All three soldiers killed were of North African descent. Another soldier from the French overseas region of Guadeloupe was left critically ill.

The attacker gunned down Jonathan Sandler, a 30-year-old rabbi and teacher of religion, his two young sons Arieh and Gabriel and then - at point blank range - the head teacher's daughter, seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego, in Monday's attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Their bodies were carried out of Ozar Hatorah school on Tuesday in two black hearses and taken to a nearby airport, reported AFP.

A military jet then flew them to Paris, from where they were placed on a commercial flight to Tel Aviv, AFP said. They have now arrived in Israel.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was to accompany the relatives of the dead to the funerals in Jerusalem.

Mr Sarkozy and the Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande will attend the memorial service in Montauban for the three soldiers killed in last week's attacks.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right Front National, will also be at the service.

She is often associated with the more controversial debates on immigration and her presence will be closely observed in light of recent events, reports the BBC's Christian Fraser in Toulouse.

On Tuesday schools across France held a moment's silence to remember the victims of the killer, whom President France Sarkozy branded a "monster".

It is the first time in the country's history that the national terror alert has been raised to "scarlet", its highest level.

The measure enables the authorities to disrupt daily life and implement sweeping security measures. These include mixed police-military patrols and powers to suspend public transport and close schools.

Mr Gueant has said the killer had a camera strapped to his chest and may have filmed the shootings.