On Wednesday, as French police surrounded a building in Toulouse where the suspect in the shooting of seven people was holed up, details of his background began to emerge. A 23-year-old French citizen of Algerian descent, the man was known by investigators to have visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. He claimed to belong to al-Qaeda, and told police he had wanted revenge for Palestinian children, for French military involvement in Afghanistan and the decision of France to ban the wearing of burkas by women.
Many questions remain unanswered. But it is clear that, like the 7/7 attack in London, the 2004 train bombings in Madrid and last year’s attacks in Norway by the far-right killer Anders Behring Breivik, France’s motorcycle shootings will prompt great soul-searching across the country’s politics and society. Read more