PARIS: An angry France won a pledge on Tuesday from the Al-Jazeera news channel not to air a video shot by an Islamist extremist during a murderous shooting spree targeting soldiers and Jewish children.
President Nicolas Sarkozy demanded that the channel not broadcast the video sent to its Paris bureau, which includes graphic footage shot by Mohamed Merah during attacks this month in southern France that left seven people dead.
French officials also reacted with fury to threats from Merah’s Algerian father to sue Paris over the way in which he was slain in a gunbattle with police last Thursday at the end of a 32-hour siege of his Toulouse flat.
And police said they believed the Al Qaeda inspired gunman, branded a “monster”, may have had one or more accomplices who possibly sent the footage to Al-Jazeera and helped him steal the scooter used in the attacks.
“In accordance with Al-Jazeera’s code of ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents,” the Qatar-based network said.
The pan-Arab channel, which once owed much of its fame outside the Arab world to airing recordings of Al Qaeda’s late chief, Osama bin Laden, said it had declined “numerous requests from media outlets for copies of the video”.
Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, had previously boasted of filming his killings and witnesses had told police that he appeared to be wearing a video camera in a chest harness during the shootings.
He was not wearing the device during his final fatal shootout, but police said they had found the Go-Pro style camera in bag he had given to a friend.
Al-Jazeera’s Paris bureau chief, Zied Tarrouche, said the channel received the videos on a USB memory key, along with a letter in poorly written French that claimed the attacks in the name of Al Qaeda.
Tarrouche said the videos showed the attacks in chronological order and had been edited into a montage.
“There was a mixture of religious music and chants, lectures, and recitals of verses from the Koran,” he said.
Leading French television networks all said they would also not broadcast the videos if they became available.
Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of Imed Ibn Ziaten, the first of three French paratroopers gunned down by Merah, said she was relieved the footage would not be shown.
“This is good, it is the right decision, the only decision to take,” she told this correspondent by telephone from Morocco. “I am relieved because this was about my son’s honour. I don’t want my son to be dirtied.”
Sarkozy had called on all channels not to broadcast the footage “under any pretext, out of respect for the victims and respect for the republic”.
The French leader -- who is running for re-election in a campaign already marked by fierce debate on security and the integration of Muslims -- also lashed out at Merah’s father, Mohamed Benalel Merah, for his lawsuit threat.
“It is with indignation that I learned that the father of the killer of seven people... wants to file a suit against France for the death of his son,” Sarkozy said. —AFP