So what do we know about Mohammed Merah, the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian extraction who killed three French paratroopers and four Jews in Toulouse?
According to various reports, here are some interesting bits of information about his psychological profile:
He was arrested 15 times as a youth, and spent a full year in a juvenile penitentiary.
As a youngster he was not particularly pious and religiously observant. He did what he did not for ‘holy jihad’ but rather because he was a deeply mentally disturbed, volatile and angry young man who was extremely violent.
He liked going to nightclubs and talking about cars and girls, but also tried to recruit a teenager to jihad by playing him jihadi music, and giving him a Koran and a sword.
He was prone to serious violence as a youth. As a young adult, he traveled to the most dangerous place on earth, the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, to be trained in combat by some of the most violent and despicable people in the world.
He said he was a Salafi and a member of al-Qaida. Both of these ‘groupings’ are pretty much as extreme as you can get. Claude Gueant, the French interior minister told TF1 TV that the suspect had received orders from Al-Qaeda but refused their request for him to carry out a suicide attack. He is afraid of death.
French prosecutors say he had a mental illness as a child.
He was rejected from the army twice. In 2010, he applied to join the French Foreign Legion but failed on his first day. This must have humiliated him deeply and added to his anger and need to prove his manhood.
When French anti-terror police brought his mother to the house he was holed up in, she said she could not talk to him because she “has no influence on him.”
He liked to watch videos of beheadings on the internet. This really does say it all.
His friends and neighbors were shocked when they heard about what he’d done. Several of them told French media that he was a “normal, smiling youngster.” He managed to control his outward appearance, and is thus someone who was in control, not a madman.
He filmed his murderous rampage at the Ozar Hatorah school, and was apparently preparing to upload the video online.
He chased down a little 8-year-old girl, Miriam Monsenego, caught her by the hair, and tried to shoot her in the head, but his handgun jammed. So he changed guns and put a bullet in her head, all the while holding Miriam [who must have been crying and begging hysterically].
After the attack on the school, he called the France 24 TV station to gloat. He wanted fame. He wanted recognition. Just like other serial killers.
“Mr. Merah, with his history of delinquency, disaffection and militant links, holds precisely the résumé that terrorism experts say is most likely to yield a violent, homegrown jihadi. “We are halfway between the lunatic and the terrorist,” Éric Denécé, an expert on French intelligence, told the New York Times. “There is often a thin line between petty crime and Al Qaeda.”
Put all this together and you have a profile of a very disturbed young man who wanted to be, and to be seen to be, extremely tough, virile and dangerous. He told French police that he “does not have the soul of a martyr” i.e. that he prefers to kill but stay alive.
In the end he died fighting.