PARIS – Leaked recordings of a conversation between a French terrorism suspect and authorities indicate the suspect claimed jihadists at a terrorist training camp encouraged him to attack Canada.
French authorities are investigating how the recordings between Mohamed Merah and police were obtained by French television station TF1, which aired what it said were tapes of the man talking to officials during a standoff in southern France.
The 23-year-old is accused of going on a shooting spree in Toulouse in March, killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers.
In an excerpt of the recording posted on the Internet, Merah — who died in a shootout — describes travelling to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Speaking in French, he says al-Qaida operatives offered to let him carry out attacks in Canada and the United States.
But — according to the tapes — Merah says as he was a French citizen, it would be easier for him to launch an attack in France.
“They offered me attacks in America, Canada,” a translation of the French recording now available on the Internet says.
“And I said as I’m French, it’s easier for me to attack France.”
Merah also explains in the recordings why he wouldn’t surrender to police.
Police say Merah espoused radical Islam and claimed allegiance to al-Qaida. He was holed up in his apartment for 32 hours surrounded by police before dying in a hail of bullets.
The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation on Monday into the airing of the recordings, which could violate French rules on the privacy of investigations.
TF1 pulled the recordings off its website, but they are circulating on other sites.
Victims’ families — who expressed outrage at the airing of the recordings — are especially concerned that videos of the killings, which police say Merah recorded, may leak publicly.
“We are not going to wait for the video of the crimes to appear on the Internet. The prosecutor must stop this,” said Mehana Mouhou, lawyer for the family of the first victim, paratrooper Imad Ibn Ziaten.
The lawyer said Imad’s mother “vomited all night. This is not information. It’s an apology for a crime.” He said he feared the broadcast could incite other violent, deranged people to attack.
TF1 anchor Harry Roselmack told The Associated Press that the station ran the recordings “because the duty of any journalist is to inform, with responsibility. We expunged all references to the killings from the recordings, but we are aware of the shock that the families of victims could feel in hearing Mohamed Merah.”
France’s Interior Ministry insisted that any recordings the police made of the standoff with Merah were protected by privacy rules and had not been made public.