After a week- long spree killing three paratroopers in a drive-by shooting in southwestern France and then three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school, 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, who claimed to be responsible for the killings, was shot dead on Thursday, March 22, after a standoff that lasted more than 30 hours, the New York Times, le Point and the Washington Post. Once feared to be the act of an al-Qaeda network in France, Merah’s killing spree was called an isolated act by President Nicolas Sarkozy, though French authorities filed charges against Abdelkader Merah, Mohamed’s older brother, on Sunday, March 25, for complicity in the murders, as well as plotting to commit terrorist acts and group theft, according to the Christian Science Monitor, CNN and Ouest-France. The Paris office of Qatari news organization Al Jazeera said on Tuesday, March 27, that it had received a USB key with video footage of the killings. Sarkozy requested that the news organization not share the footage, traced back to Mohamed Merah, a request which Al Jazeera announced it would respect that day, as covered by the Seattle Post Intelligencer and le Monde.
After the series of shootings in and near Toulouse, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Monday, March 26, that France would bar entry to certain Muslim clerics generally considered to be on the radical side of Islam, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was rejected a visa to enter France for a conference in April, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Global Post and the New York Times. On Tuesday, March 27, Sarkozy announced a new series of measures to ward off the development of extremist and terrorist movements in France, as covered by le Point and 20 Minutes.
Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand confirmed on Monday, March 26, that the French economy, particularly the labor market, had slowed considerably since the end of 2011, as unemployment had risen 0.2 percent since the end of last year, when it was at 9.4 percent, NASDAQ and le Point reported. As the last labor statistics to be released before the first round of elections on April 22, le Parisien and Reuters explored how ten consecutive months of rising unemployment, and a failure to bring the unemployment level down to 9 percent by the end of 2011, as it is now expected to reach 9.7 percent by mid-year, could be detrimental to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s reelection hopes.
Microsoft France won a court case against the Ministry of Economy in which the American enterprise’s French branch argued that the company had unjustly been charged €20 million in back taxes covering the period from 1999 to 2001, le Figaro and l’Express reported. Unless the decision is appealed, the French government will have to pay back to the €20 million and an additional €4 million in interest.
The city of Paris recommended that drivers reduce their maximum speed from 80 to 60 kilometers per hour over the weekend, as the city surpassed its maximum level of particulate matter, making the third time in the month of March, and the 23rd time in 2012, that Paris was placed on alert due to its high levels of pollution, le Monde and le Parisien reported.