John Yoo, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke at the Union about the executive and legislative branches’ different roles as defined by the Constitution on Thursday morning.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

In a lecture on campus Thursday, John Yoo, who helped craft interrogation policies for the George W. Bush administration, said intelligence-gathering and the use of torture are the only way to stop terrorist attacks in the United States.

Yoo, who is currently a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, spoke at the Union about the executive and legislative branches’ different roles as defined by the Constitution. However, during the Q&A portion of the event, several audience members asked about his past as a legal consultant.

Yoo helped craft the CIA’s legal justification for using highly-debated methods of interrogation for al-Qaeda terrorists during the Bush administration. He said there was a great demand for intelligence after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., and because the al-Qaeda terrorist group didn’t have territory or armed forces, the U.S. had to use different tactics to fight them.

“This war is not about who has what fire power at their disposal, which is the way we fought previous wars,” Yoo said. “It’s about getting intelligence.”

Three months ago, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a report which concluded C.I.A. officials often exaggerated the results of their interrogations to the White House. Interrogations included techniques such as prolongued sleep deprivation and "rectal feeding" as well as waterboarding, the report said.

According to Yoo, CIA directors who interrogated terrorists said the information those interrogations yielded was critical for determining the U.S.’s actions against al-Qaeda. The U.S. hasn’t faced any serious terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001 largely because of interrogations that included torture, Yoo said. 

“Of course, many people in society disagree with the decision [to use torture to interrogate people], and I knew when I was making it that it would be a controversial and difficult decision,” Yoo said. “But I still think … it was still the right decision to make.”

Government senior Tasbiha Batool said she thinks Yoo should legally be considered a war criminal because he authorized torture against human beings.

“That’s the epitome of shame, when you do something wrong, and you can’t even admit that you did it wrong,” Batool said. “He said he has no remorse, and he would go back and do it again and, to me, I don’t understand that — just even on a very humanitarian level.”

History graduate student Chris Babits said he thinks just because the U.S. has the resources and ability to use extreme measures of torture doesn’t mean that they should.

“I think that [Yoo] just has a very simplistic view on American history, and he conflates power and greatness, and so this is, in my opinion, abuse of American power,” Babits said. “A responsible president knows when not to use power.”

SANAA, Yemen — Yemeni officials say a U.S. drone strike on a car outside the capital of Sanaa has killed at least seven suspected al-Qaida militants.

The officials say the drone attack took place Wednesday near the town of Khwlan, some 20 miles southeast of the capital. Military officials and tribal witnesses say the car was destroyed, and burnt bodies could be seen inside the wreckage.

The officials and witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Also, the Interior Ministry raised the death toll from a drone strike on Tuesday from three suspected militants to five.

Islamist militants from Mali attacked the Amenas natural gas field partly operated by BP in Algeria early on Wednesday, killing a security guard and kidnapping at least eight people.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria — In a desert standoff deep in the Sahara, the Algerian army ringed a natural gas complex where Islamist militants hunkered down with dozens of hostages Wednesday night after a rare attack that appeared to be the first violent shock wave from the French intervention in Mali.

A militant group that claimed responsibility said 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, were being held after the assault on one of oil-rich Algeria’s energy facilities, 800 miles from the capital of Algiers and 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the coast. Two foreigners were killed.

The group claiming responsibility said the attack was in revenge for Algeria’s support of France’s military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali. The U.S. defense secretary called it a “terrorist act.”

The militants appeared to have no escape, with troops surrounding the complex and army helicopters clattering overhead.

The group — called Katibat Moulathamine or the Masked Brigade — phoned a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation at the Ain Amenas gas field, and that France should end its intervention in Mali to ensure the safety of the hostages.

BP, the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, operate the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services for the facility as well.

In Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the U.S. “will take all necessary and proper steps” to deal with the attack in Algeria. He would not detail what such steps might be but condemned the action as “terrorist attack” and likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Algeria’s top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila, said that “security forces have surrounded the area and cornered the terrorists, who are in one wing of the complex’s living quarters.”

He said one Briton and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while a Norwegian and two other Britons were among the six wounded.


This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N’Djamena overnight Jan. 11-12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy. The battle to retake Mali’s north from the al-Qaida-linked groups controlling it began in earnest Saturday, after hundreds of French forces deployed to the country and began aerial bombardments to drive back the Islamic extremists from a town seized earlier this week. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali — France claimed new successes in its campaign to oust Islamist extremists from northern Mali on Sunday, bombarding the major city of Gao with airstrikes targeting the airport and training camps used by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group controlling the city.

France’s foreign minister also said the 3-day-old intervention is gaining international support, with communications and transport help from the United States and backing from Britain, Denmark and other European countries.

The French-led effort to take back Mali’s north from the extremists occupying it has included airstrikes by jets and combat helicopters on at least four northern towns, of which Gao is the largest. Some 400 French troops have been deployed to the country in the all-out effort to win back the territory from the well-armed rebels, who seized control of an area larger than France itself following a coup in Mali nine months ago.

“French fighter jets have identified and destroyed this Sunday, Jan. 13, numerous targets in northern Mali near Gao, in particular training camps, infrastructure and logistical depots which served as bases for terrorist groups,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Residents of Gao confirmed that the targets included the city’s airport, as well as the building that served as the base for the town’s feared Islamist police, which — in their adherence to a strict version of Muslim law — have carried out numerous punishments including amputating limbs of accused thieves. 

But the intervention has come with a human cost in the city of Konna, the first to be bombed on Friday and Saturday. The town’s mayor said that at least 10 civilians were killed, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid the falling bombs.

French President Francois Hollande authorized the military operation, code-named “Serval” after a sub-Saharan wildcat, after it became clear that the advancing rebels could push past the defenses in the town of Mopti, the first town on the government-controlled side, which has the largest concentration of Malian soldiers.

The decision catapulted the world and Mali’s neighbors into a military operation that diplomats had earlier said would not take place until at least September. France’s defense minister said they had no choice because of the swift rebel advance.

On Saturday, the body representing nations in West Africa announced that the member states would send hundreds of troops of their own, including at least 500 each from Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, as well as from Nigeria.

U.S. officials have said they had offered to send drones to Mali and were considering a broad range of options for assistance, including information-sharing and possibly allowing limited use of refueling tankers. British Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed to send aircraft to help transport troops.

English associate professor Snehal Shingavi opened his class, Literature of Islamophobia, to the public Monday in response to the UT Police Department’s initial statement during Friday’s bomb threat.

At least eight students who are not regularly in the class sat in, Shingavi said Monday afternoon. Shingavi said racial bias against Muslim or Arabic students could have resulted from UTPD’s description of the man who called in the hoax bomb threat Friday as having a “Middle Eastern accent.” Shingavi said he was also concerned that UTPD decided to release the information that the caller claimed to be involved with al-Qaida.

“These are not helpful descriptors,” Shingavi said. “The most harrowing bit about that story is not that they released the actual accent itself, it was that there was no other information about the guy.”

Shingavi also opened his office to students who felt any racial bias or hate after Friday’s incident. He said he was thankful he had seen no racial bias and no one had visited him.

UT Vice President of Student Affairs Gage Paine said she understands the concerns.

“It’s a difficult question and a legitimate issue,” she said. “You try to minimize and be sensitive about stepping on people’s toes, but I have no idea how they got to the decision to release the description.”

She said the most important thing in an emergency situation is safety, but she said issues that arose from releasing a description of the caller’s accent are part of learning how to handle an emergency situation.

Paine said UT administrators, UTPD and other entities involved in responding to threats to campus safety would discuss the description they released during a debriefing meeting Monday morning. Tara Doolittle, a UT spokesperson, said none of the information covered during the debriefing could be released, because it might interfere with the ongoing investigation.

On Friday, UTPD chief Robert Dahlstrom stood by the decision to release the description.

Shingavi said while other reactions to the bomb threat were possible, the University’s response was sensational and inflammatory. A fake audio recording of the call spread via Facebook and Twitter. The fake audio recording claims the caller’s name is Mohammed.

“It is a product of some of the thoughtlessness and laziness of University administrators to think that such information would not have consequences,” Shingavi said.

Initially, when UTPD released the description of the caller, The Daily Texan, the Austin-American Statesman and other news outlets published the statement in full. Journalism professor Bob Jensen, who teaches a media law and ethics course, said news outlets should have waited until they had context before publishing information about the caller’s accent.

“In a context when news is spreading that someone of Middle Eastern descent is calling in a bomb threat and there is potential of reactions, especially violent reactions, in a community, then that’s really quite troubling,” Jensen said.

Jensen said he sympathizes with journalists working in the “heat of the moment,” but he said he thinks news organizations should create a policy for publishing information that is possibly irrelevant and inflammatory.

Wanda Cash, the School of Journalism’s associate director, said it is typical for law enforcement to release this kind of information, but that does not mean journalists should report it if it does not advance the story.

“If the person who called in the bomb hoax identifies themselves as being part of al-Qaida, that’s enough,” Cash said. “I don’t think we have to characterize that person as having a slight Middle Eastern accent because I don’t know what that means. I couldn’t differentiate and I don’t think most people could.”

UT President William Powers Jr. addressed Friday’s bomb hoax at the year’s first Faculty Council meeting Monday. He did not mention the decision to describe the caller’s accent as Middle Eastern.

Printed on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 as: Description of hoax caller raises converns over bias

UT community members have raised concerns of racial bias in the UT Police Department’s description of the man behind a false bomb threat to the UT campus, and UTPD is standing behind its decision to release the information.

During the response to the threat, which included a campus-wide evacuation, UT Police Department officers released a statement saying the caller was a man with a Middle Eastern accent who said he was affiliated with al-Qaida. A source close to the situation, who asked not to be named because of the confidential information provided, said UTPD asked UT employees what the caller sounded like and if he had an accent. Employees told UTPD the caller had a “light Middle Eastern accent.”

The call came through the University’s general phone line at 8:35 a.m., according to the source. The caller told an employee he was not a UT student, and bombs on campus were going to go off in one to two hours.

“The caller said he was calling from a phone booth in Austin, but the number didn’t have a 512 area code,” the source said.

The caller would not say what building the bombs were in, the source said. The caller remained on the phone for more than 10 minutes while UT employees notified UTPD of the call. Police arrived shortly after the caller hung up, the source said.

A UTPD spokesperson said they received notice of the call at 8:43 a.m. The University issued its first emergency notification at 9:53 a.m. via text message to 69,000 people.

The source said UTPD questioned employees and began their investigation immediately. The source was told by a UTPD officer they needed to thoroughly investigate the phone call before panicking students because most bomb threats are “bottomless.”

English professor Snehal Shingavi said it was possible Arab or Muslim students would face bias or discrimination because of the University’s statement. Shingavi said he does not see why the University needed to release information regarding the caller’s accent. Through Twitter, he invited students to come to his class on Islamophobia. His class meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 2:00 p.m. in Parlin Hall 206.

During the evacuation, Shingavi tweeted, “All Muslim students at UT, please be safe, and come to my office or contact me if you face any bias or hate or need any support.”

“I want students to know they have access to faculty to help them deal with discrimination and bias they may face on campus,” Shingavi said after the campus had been reopened.

Michael Redding, president of the Graduate Student Assembly and Texas Student Media contracted employee, said he has completed training for bomb threat response and understands why the caller’s accent is important information to collect as part of an investigation.

“You’re trained to pick up on context clues in that kind of situation,” Redding said. “In light of what’s going on internationally, someone saying they are affiliated with al-Qaida with a Middle Eastern accent may be more credible. You can’t ignore any detail that can be relevant to an investigation, but the decision to release the information is kind of splitting hairs.”

Redding said he was not sure about the thought process behind releasing the description.

UTPD chief Robert Dahlstrom said the department released the description in anticipation of requests from the public.

“If we hadn’t put that out, we would be getting questions to release that information,” Dahlstrom said.  

He said asking for a description of a caller’s voice is a standard response procedure.

WASHINGTON — Letters from Osama bin Laden’s last hideaway, released by U.S. officials intent on discrediting his terror organization, portray a network weak, inept and under siege — and its leader seemingly near wit’s end about the passing of his global jihad’s glory days.

The documents, published online Thursday, are a small sample of those seized during the U.S. raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound in which he was killed a year ago. By no accident, they show al-Qaida at its worst. The raid has become the signature national security moment of Barack Obama’s presidency and one he is eager to emphasize in his re-election campaign.

Those ends are served in the 17 documents chosen by U.S. officials for the world to see — not to mention American voters. The Obama administration has refused to release a fuller record of its bin Laden collection, making it difficult to glean any larger truths about the state of the terrorist organization.

What is clear from the documents released so far is that al-Qaida’s leaders are constantly on the run from unmanned U.S. aircraft and trying to evade detection by CIA spies and National Security Agency eavesdroppers.

In one letter, either bin Laden himself or his senior deputy tells the leader of Yemen’s al-Qaida offshoot that, in the face of U.S. power, it is futile to try to establish a government that will offer it safe haven.

“Even though we were able to militarily and economically exhaust and weaken our greatest enemy before and after the eleventh,” the letter says, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, “the enemy continues to possess the ability to topple any state we establish.”

Printed on Friday, May 4, 2012 as: Bin Laden secret letters show al-Qaida's troubles during war

Afgan special forces on top of a building previosly occupied by militants in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. Insurgents were earlier holed up in the building but were overcome by heavy gunfire.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — For Taliban militants and U.S. strategists alike, all roads in this impoverished country of mountain passes, arid deserts and nearly impassable goat tracks lead to this ancient capital of 3 million people nestled in a high and narrow valley.

The Taliban made their intentions clear over the weekend, mounting spectacular coordinated attacks that spawned an 18-hour battle with Afghan and NATO forces. And now, the U.S. is gearing up for what may be the last major American-run offensive of the war — a bid to secure the approaches to the city.

While bombings and shootings elsewhere in Afghanistan receive relatively little attention, attacks in the capital alarm the general population, undermine the government’s reputation and frighten foreigners into fleeing the country. That’s why insurgents on Sunday struck locations that were so fortified they could cause little or no damage, including the diplomatic quarter, the parliament and a NATO base.

“These are isolated attacks that are done for symbolic purposes, and they have not regained any territory,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.

The U.S.-led spring offensive, expected to begin in the coming weeks, may be NATO’s last chance to shore up Kabul’s defenses before a significant withdrawal of combat troops limits its options. The focus will be regions that control the main access routes, roads and highways into Kabul from the desert south and the mountainous east. These routes are used not only by militants but by traders carrying goods from Pakistan and Iran.

The strategy involves clearing militants from provinces such as Ghazni, just south of the capital. The pivotal region links Kabul with the Taliban homeland in the south and provinces bordering Pakistan.

NATO, under U.S. command, will also conduct more operations in eastern provinces such as Paktika and Paktia that are considered major infiltration routes to the capital from insurgent safe havens in Pakistan.

Afghan and U.S. officials blamed the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, which is part of the Taliban and has close links with al-Qaida, for the weekend attacks that left 36 insurgents, eight policemen and three civilians dead in Kabul and three eastern provinces. But Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said officials have not concluded whether the attacks emanated out of Pakistan.

Declining numbers of international troops in the coming months are also forcing coalition forces to focus less on remote and thickly populated places such as eastern Nuristan. They hope to move responsibility for those areas to the Afghan security forces.

Coalition forces last summer made gains in traditional Taliban strongholds such as Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south, areas they must now hold with fewer troops. By September, as many as 10,000 U.S. Marines are scheduled to leave Helmand and hand over the lead for security to Afghan forces in the former Taliban stronghold.

“It’s going to be a very busy summer,” Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander, said recently. “The campaign will balance the drawdown of the surged forces with the consolidation of our holdings in the south, continued combat operations” and an effort to push Afghan security forces into the lead.

The U.S. this month finished moving the 1st brigade of the 82nd Airborne into Ghazni to help clear out a Taliban stronghold in Andar district. It could be one of the largest remaining American clearing operations of the war.

It is not known when that operation will take place, but Ghazni is located at a key chokepoint with the country’s main highway from the south to Kabul running through it. The highway runs just past Andar district.

“If you secure Andar, you have secured Ghazni, and you have secured Afghanistan,” the governor of Ghazni, Musa Khan, told U.S. forces last week at a handover ceremony with departing Polish troops.

Eliminating the Ghazni problem is an important part of the plan to transition security responsibility from foreign forces to the nascent Afghan National Security Forces.

After September, the U.S.-led coalition may not have enough troops on the ground for such large-scale operations and will increasingly have to depend on the Afghans to take the lead.

The U.S.-led coalition is keen to show that the 330,000-strong Afghan forces are capable of filling in a vacuum left by the withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. forces by the end of September. It also wants to use them more and more in operations against insurgent forces in key battlegrounds such as the east.

Last week Afghan forces carried out an operation in eastern Nuristan, a Taliban stronghold, with only support from coalition forces.

“This was yet another example of the successful transition we have been seeing throughout the past year, as the ANSF are planning, leading and executing very productive combat operations against the insurgency,” Allen said. “We expect to see more of these types of successful ANSF-led operations as we progress further into the spring and summer,” he added.

Afghan forces are to peak at 352,000 by the end of the year and are expected to take over much of the fighting as the U.S. draws down an additional 23,000 troops to 68,000 by the end of September. U.S. troop levels reached a high of about 100,000 last year.

Estimates of the Taliban fighting force hover around 25,000. The Afghan army and police are now in charge of security for areas home to half the nation’s population, with coalition forces in a support role. The coalition hopes to keep handing over control until Afghan forces are fully in charge by the end of 2013, with all combat troops scheduled to withdraw from the country by the end of 2014.

The U.S. may retain a small number of forces past that date to help train and mentor the Afghan army and help with counterterrorism efforts.

There is very little appetite in Western countries for keeping troops in Afghanistan, but U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said Sunday’s attack shows the danger of withdrawing international forces too quickly.

“There’s a very dangerous enemy out there with capabilities and with safe havens in Pakistan. To get out before the Afghans have a full grip on security, which is a couple of years out, would be to invite the Taliban, Haqqani, and al-Qaida back in and set the stage for another 9/11,” Crocker said.

Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: US nears final Afghan offesnsive

SANAA, Yemen — A Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work Wednesday in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden, a Yemeni security official said.

It was the first kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in this impoverished country, where abductions are frequent and where armed tribesmen and al-Qaida-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash.

The security official identified the diplomat as Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden. No more details were immediately available. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

It was not clear whether the abduction had any political motives.

Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf Cooperation Council countries have been heavily involved in a power-transfer deal that forced Yemen’s longtime president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to relinquish power after a yearlong turmoil and mass protests against his rule. Saleh stepped down last month and handed power to his deputy.

Yemen’s turmoil has caused a security vacuum, which al-Qaida has used to seize large swaths of territory across the restive south.

Printed on Thursday, March 29, 2012 as: Saudi diplomat posted to Yemen kidnapped, reasons unknown

Police officers walk next to the building in Toulouse, France, Wednesday March 21, 2012 where a suspect in the shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school had been spotted.

TOULOUSE, France — Riot police set off explosions outside an apartment building early Thursday in an effort to force the surrender of a gunman who boasted of bringing France “to its knees” with an al-Qaida-linked terror spree that killed seven people.

As the standoff dragged into a second day, hundreds of heavily armed police cordoned off the five-story building in Toulouse where the 24-year-old suspect, Mohamed Merah, had been holed up.

An Interior Ministry official said the suspect had gone back on a previous decision to turn himself in — and that police blew up the shutters outside the apartment window to pressure him to surrender.

The Toulouse prosecutor, Michel Valet, told The Associated Press: “I cannot confirm that the assault has started. It’s not as simple as that. We are waiting.”

Authorities said the shooter, a French citizen of Algerian descent, had been to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he claimed to have received training from al-Qaida.

They said he told negotiators he killed a rabbi and three young children at a Jewish school on Monday and three French paratroopers last week to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and to protest the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan, as well as a government ban last year on face-covering Islamic veils.

“He has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.

The standoff began when a police attempt at around 3 a.m. to detain Merah erupted into a firefight. Two police were wounded, triggering on-and-off negotiations with the suspect that lasted into the night.

Police cut electricity and gas to the building, then quietly closed in to wait out the suspect.

Authorities were “counting on his great fatigue and weakening,” said Didier Martinez of the SGP police union, adding the siege could go on for hours. Street lights were also cut, making Merah more visible to officers with night vision goggles in case of an assault.

French authorities — like others in Europe — have long been concerned about “lone-wolf” attacks by young, Internet-savvy militants who self-radicalize online since they are harder to find and track. Still, it was the first time a radical Islamic motive has been ascribed to killings in France in years.

Merah espoused a radical brand of Islam and had been to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region twice and to the Pakistani militant stronghold of Waziristan for training, Molins said.

He said the suspect had plans to kill another soldier, prompting the police raid.

The gunman’s brother and mother were detained early in the day. Molins said the 29-year-old brother, Abdelkader, had been implicated in a 2007 network that sent militant fighters to Iraq, but was never charged.

Wednesday’s siege 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, who has played up nationalist themes in his bid for a second term, vowed to defend France.

“Terrorism will not be able to fracture our national community,” Sarkozy declared Wednesday on national television before heading to funeral services for the two paratroopers killed and another injured Thursday in Montauban, near Toulouse.

The suspect repeatedly promised to turn himself in, then halted negotiations. Cedric Delage, regional secretary for a police union, said police were prepared to storm the building if he did not surrender. 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.

Sarkozy’s office said President Barack Obama called him Wednesday to express condolences to the families of the victims and praise French police for tracking down the suspect. The statement said France and the United States are “more determined than ever to fight terrorist barbarity together.”

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.

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.”

“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 has a long record as a juvenile delinquent with 15 convictions, Molins added.

An Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Merah had been under surveillance for years for having “fundamentalist” Islamic views.

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 Merah 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 had more weapons like an AK-47 assault rifle. Gueant said other weapons had been found in his car.

“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 Merah was the powerful Yamaha motorcycle he reportedly 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 his 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.

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 earlier in the day.

At the funeral ceremony, 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.”

Before he was killed last year, bin Laden stressed the importance of focusing on the Palestinian cause. In what is believed to be a draft letter to al-Qaida’s top lieutenant, the al-Qaida leader wrote about the need for the terror group’s affiliates to tie their operations to broad concern for Palestine instead of local grievances, according to declassified documents obtained in last year’s bin Laden raid that were reviewed by the Washington Post.

Printed on Thursday, March 22, 2012 as: French riot police force gunman to surrender