TOULOUSE, France (AP) -- In a tense, daylong standoff, French riot police surrounded a building in southwest France on Wednesday, demanding the surrender of a gunman who they suspect of slaying seven victims in an al-Qaida-linked terror spree.
Hundreds of police cordoned off the streets around an apartment complex in the city of Toulouse after a pre-dawn raid erupted into a firefight. Three police were wounded as they tried to arrest a 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent who is suspected of killing three Jewish children, a rabbi and three French paratroopers.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said the gunman, Mohamed Merah, was a self-taught radical Salafi who had been to Afghanistan twice and had trained in the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan. The prosecutor said Merah was planning to kill another soldier imminently, so police had to launch the 3 a.m. raid.
Molins also said the gunman's brother Abdelkader had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq. The brother and the suspect's mother were being detained.
French authorities -- like others in Europe -- have long been concerned about "lone-wolf" attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who self-radicalize online. Molins' comments, however, marked the first time a radical Islamic motive has been ascribed to killings in France in years.
The police raid was part of France's biggest manhunt since a wave of terrorist attacks in the 1990s by Algerian extremists. The chase began after France's worst-ever school shooting Monday and two previous attacks on paratroopers beginning March 11, killings that have horrified the country and frozen campaigning for the French presidential election next month.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has played up nationalist themes in his bid for a second term.
"Terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community," Sarkozy declared Wednesday on national television before heading to funeral services for two paratroopers killed and another injured in Montauban, near Toulouse.
The suspect repeatedly promised to turn himself in Wednesday, then halted negotiations.
Cedric Delage, regional secretary for a police union, said if he did not turn himself in police were preparing to storm the building.
After bouts of deadly terrorist attacks in France in the 1980s and 1990s, France beefed up its legal arsenal -- now seen as one of the most effective in Western Europe and a reference for countries including the U.S. after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In recent years, French counterterrorism officials have focused mainly on al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African affiliate of Osama Bin Laden's network that has its roots in an insurgent group in Algeria -- a former French colony.
The suspect has told police he belonged to al-Qaida and wanted to take revenge for Palestinian children killed in the Middle East, Interior Minister Claude Gueant said, adding the gunman was also angry about French military intervention abroad.
"He's after the army," Gueant said.
Molins said Merah's first trip to Afghanistan ended with him being picked up by Afghan police "who turned him over to the American army who put him on the first plane to France."
An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Merah has been under surveillance for years for having "fundamentalist" Islamic views.
In the negotiations Wednesday, the suspect "expresses no regret, only that he didn't have time to have more victims. And he even bragged, he said, of bringing France to its knees," the prosecutor said.
"He had foreseen other killings, notably he foresaw another attack this morning, targeting a soldier," Molins said, adding also planned to attack two police officers. "He claims to have always acted alone."
Merah also has a long record as a juvenile delinquent with 15 convictions, Molins added. Merah's lawyer called the record petty crimes.
During the standoff, police evacuated the five-story building, escorting residents out using the roof and fire truck ladders. The suspect's apartment was on the ground floor of the postwar building, locals said.
French authorities said the suspect threw a Colt .45 handgun used in each of the three attacks out a window in exchange for a device to talk to authorities, but has more weapons like an AK-47 assault rifle. Gueant said other weapons had been found in the suspect's car.
The suspect "said he wants to avenge the deaths of Palestinians," Gueant told reporters.
"The main concern is to arrest him, and to arrest him in conditions by which we can present him to judicial officials," Gueant added, explaining authorities want to "take him alive ... It is imperative for us."
Delage said a key to tracking the suspect was the powerful Yamaha motorcycle that he has used in all three attacks -- a dark gray one that had been stolen March 6. The frame was painted white, the color witnesses saw in the school attack.
According to Delage, one of the suspect's brothers went to a motorcycle sales outfit to ask how to modify the GPS tracker, raising suspicions. The vendor then contacted police, Delage said.
The shooter has proved to be a meticulous operator. At the site of the second paratrooper killing, police found the clip for the gun used in all three attacks -- but no fingerprints or DNA on it.
The first French paratrooper killed was shot March 11 after posting an announcement online to sell his motorcycle. Two other paratroopers were slain and a third injured Thursday in a drive-by shooting.
Those slain at the Jewish school, all of French-Israeli nationality, were buried in Israel on Wednesday as relatives sobbed inconsolably. The bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and 8-year-old Myriam Monsenego had been flown there in the day.
At the funeral ceremony in Jerusalem, Myriam's eldest brother, Avishai, in his 20s, wailed and called to God to give his parents the strength "to endure the worst trial that can be endured."
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, meanwhile, denounced the deadly shooting attack at the Jewish school and condemned the link to Palestinian children.
"It's time for criminals to stop using the Palestinian cause to justify their terrorist actions," Fayyad said in a statement. "The children of Palestine want nothing but dignified lives for themselves and for all the children."
Elaine Ganley, Thomas Adamson, Jamey Keaten, Ingrid Rousseau, Cecile Brisson and Sylvie Corbet in Paris, David Rising in Berlin and Daniella Cheslow in Jerusalem contributed to this report.