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Gunman opens fire outside Jewish school in France

March 19, 2012

Police officers and firefighters gather at the site of a shooting in Toulouse, France where a shooter opened fire in front of a Jewish school. — Photo AP

TOULOUSE: A gunman has opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a southwest French city killing several people, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday.

Michel Valet told The Associated Press that there were ''several dead'' in the morning incident at the school in Toulouse. He said it was unclear whether the victims were children.

French media have reported up to three dead, including two children. but this could not immediately be independently confirmed.

The shooter drove away on a scooter, a national police official in Paris said. The official did not wish to be named in line with departmental rules.

Police cordoned off the private Ozar Hathora school in the northeast of Toulouse. Some two hours after the shooting children were still in the school.

President Nicolas Sarkozy called the shootings an ''abominable drama and a ''frightening tragedy.''

Sarkozy was heading to the site Monday along with by Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, the umbrella group representing Jewish organizations, the president's office and CRIF said. The Education Minister Luc Chatel also accompanied the group.

The shooting occurred about 8:10 a.m. — just ahead of the start of classes in most schools — in the same area where a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three uniformed paratroopers at a bank machine Thursday, killing two and critically wounding the other.

The attack in the town of Montauban occurred not far from the soldiers' barracks. Four days earlier, a gunman on a motorbike shot and killed another paratrooper in Toulouse, about 50 kilometers away.

A police official warned Monday that it was too early to draw solid links between the attacks ''We're in a heated atmosphere. It's premature for this or that hypothesis to try to establish a direct link,'' Didier Martinez, regional secretary of the SGP Police union, said on BFM-TV.

Authorities said at the time of the earlier shootings that forensic analysis had shown that the same weapon was used in the Montauban and Toulouse attacks.