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Police hunt for ex-soldiers with neo-Nazi links

DETECTIVES believe that one of the three ex-soldiers pictured here, giving a Nazi salute behind a Swastika flag, may be responsible for the killings in France.

A massive manhunt is underway for the neo-Nazi gang.

Police investigating yesterday's school shooting of three children and a teacher in Toulouse, have linked the murders to the killing of three soldiers last week.

An anti-terror squad has revealed that the .45 automatic pistol used at the school was the same weapon used in the attacks on the soldiers.

Last Thursday, three soldiers were shot as they stood by a cashpoint in the French town of Montauban. Two were killed and the third is in a serious condition in hospital.

Four days earlier, an out-of uniform soldier was shot and killed in Toulouse.

The Montauban soldiers were all from the 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment, the same elite group as the extremist ex-soldiers under investigation.


French police had first believed that the killing of the soldiers was the action of a lone man protesting against French involvement in Afghanistan.

However, enquiries are now centred on the three men who were discharged in 2008, for allegedly having neo-Nazi links.

More than 200 officers have joined the investigation and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last night on television that the terror alert in the Midi-Pyrenees region had been raised at its highest level.

Yesterday's carnage is believed to be the most deadly attack targeting Jews in France since the early 1980s.

Neo-Nazi organisations are banned in France but far-right organisations have had a surge of popularity in recent years.

While the number of anti-Semitic acts reported in France last year fell, there is still a hotline staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report anti-Semitic incidents.

Many anti-Semitic attacks are linked to conflict in the Middle East. The majority happen in the French capital, and a Jewish leader in Toulouse expressed shock that his southwestern city was targeted.

"Toulouse was always integrated. We didn't have any problems of integration or security problems," said Bouaz Gasto, vice president of the Association of Reform Jews of Toulouse.

"That's why we always thought that this would never happen here because we didn't have any particular worry."