An unknown gunman opened fire at a Jewish school on Monday in a southwestern French city killing four people and wounding several others, a French prosecutor said Monday. It was unclear as of press time what the motives for the attack were, as French police had not classified it as a terror attack or hate crime.
According to witnesses who spoke to Israel Radio, a man on a motorcycle rode up to the Otzar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse and opened fire at people gathered by the gate. The attacker, who was wearing a helmet, then got off the motorbike and ran into the school's yard, where he continued shooting with two separate handguns. He then fled the scene.
Reuters reported on Monday afternoon that French anti-terrorism prosecutors will investigate the shooting of the Jewish teacher and three children at the Jewish school, as well as the shooting of three soldiers in two other separate incidents last week, they said. Paris prosecutors said in a statement that they were opening anti-terrorism investigations into the three incidents following the shooting at the school, Reuters reported.
The victims of Monday's attack were named as Yonatan Sandler, 30, from the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood of Jerusalem, along with his two sons Aryeh, 3, and Gavriel Yissacher, 6, as well as the 8-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, Miriam Montesango.
Prosecutor Michel Valet said that a 17-year-old had also been seriously injured.
A rabbi at the school, identified as Rahamim Sabag, told Israel’s Channel 2 television that the father was a rabbi who taught at the school. A school employee, who gave his name as Elhanan, told Israel Radio that the attack occurred at 8 a.m. when a motorcyclist started shooting at people who had come to the school’s synagogue to pray. “The attacker knew exactly who he was shooting at,” the school employee said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy accompanied by Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, the umbrella group representing Jewish organizations, were heading to the site of the private school, the president’s office and CRIF said. Following the attack, France’s Interior Ministry enacted measures to boost security at other Jewish and Israel-affiliated institutions in the region, on suspicions that the shooter is a serial killer, Army Radio reported.
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 school in the northeast of Toulouse, and some two hours after the shooting children were still in the school.
The shooting happened in the same area where a gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three uniformed paratroopers at a bank machine on 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 (30 miles) away.
Authorities said at the time that forensic analysis showed that the same weapon was used in the shootings in Montauban and Toulouse.
It was not immediately clear if all three shootings were related.