Al-Jazeera not to air video of French attacks

SARAH DiLORENZO Associated Press Published:

PARIS (AP) -- Al-Jazeera decided Tuesday not to air a video that appears to show the attacks on soldiers and a Jewish school in southwestern France from the killer's point of view, including the cries of his victims.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, other French officials and family members of the victims had asked that it not be broadcast.

The footage was contained on a USB key sent with a letter to the Paris office of the Qatar-based television company, Zied Tarrouche, the station's Paris bureau chief, said Tuesday on the French TV station BFM. The letter, written in poor French with spelling and grammar errors, claimed the shootings were carried out in the name of al-Qaida.

Later Tuesday, a brief statement posted on the station's website said: "Al-Jazeera will not air video of French shootings." It said they would have more details soon.

Police traced the attacks to Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman, who was killed last week after a more than 30-hour standoff with police at his apartment building. Merah had claimed to police that he had links to al-Qaida, traveled to Afghanistan and received weapons training in the militant-riddled Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan. But authorities have questioned some of Merah's claims.

Prosecutors have said that Merah filmed all of his attacks, which began March 11 with the murder of a French soldier. Before the spree ended, two more soldiers and three Jewish children and a rabbi were killed.

Tarrouche said the images appear to have been taken from the point of view of the killer, perhaps from a camera hung around his neck. He said they were a bit shaky but of a high technical quality.

The video had clearly been manipulated after the fact, according to Tarrouche, with religious songs and recitations of Quranic verses laid over the footage.

"You can hear gunshots at the moment of the killings. You can hear the voice of this person who has committed these assassinations. You can hear also the cries of the victims, and the voices were distorted," Tarrouche said.

In an address to police officers and judges earlier Tuesday, Sarkozy had asked that the images not be broadcast.

"I ask the managers of all television stations that might have these images not to broadcast them in any circumstances, out of respect for the victims -- out of respect for the Republic," Sarkozy said.

There was no indication that other stations have the images.

Tarrouche said the Paris prosecutor, whose office is leading the investigation, had also called to explain the consequences of disseminating the images. But Tarrouche said the prosecutor said he would not prohibit the channel from "doing its work as journalists."

"We are not a sensationalist channel. We're not looking to broadcast images without weighing the risks and the consequences. That's why the management will decide today after meeting at headquarters in Qatar," Tarrouche said.

The decision not to broadcast the images came a few hours later.

Tarrouche said investigators spent Monday interviewing employees at the Paris bureau about the video. It was not immediately clear when the footage was received or who had sent it.

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this story.