Mohammed Merah, the 23 year old French gunman who confessed to killing 7 people in the city of Toulouse in south west France, is dead after a final dramatic shoot-out with French police.
It was the culmination of a 31-hour standoff with hundreds of French anti-terror police who surrounded the building where Merah had barricaded himself.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters Thursday that Merah had ceased communicating with negotiators around midnight, after discussing a possible surrender, giving rise to speculation he might have committed suicide.
"But when heavily armed paramilitary police entered the apartment through the door and several windows about 10:30 a.m., Gueant said, Merah burst out of the bathroom, blasting away with several weapons," the Washington Post's Edward Cody reported.
"After sweeping the apartment with gunfire, the minister added, Merah jumped out of an open window 'and he was found dead on the ground below.'"
The Interior Minister wouldn't answer whether Merah had died in the fall or was shot by police. But France 24 commentators noted that Merah was unlikely to have died from a jump from a 1st floor window.
Earlier, French prosecutor Francois Molins told journalists that Merah had claimed responsibility for killing four people--including three young children--at a Jewish school in Toulouse and three French paratroopers. Merah cited the death of Palestinian children in Gaza and opposition to France's role in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan as the reason for targeting French troops and Jewish school children.
Merah also reportedly claimed sympathies for al-Qaida and is said to have trained in jihadi camps on at least two previous trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, most recently in 2011.