A student, second from left, is flanked by an unidentified woman and police officers as they leave a Jewish school after a gunman opened fire in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday 19 March 2012. (Photo: AP)
A teacher and his two children were shot dead outside a Jewish school in southwestern France Monday, in the third gun attack in a week by a man who fled on a motorbike.
Patrick Rouimi, the father of a child at the school, told AFP that a man opened fire on a group of people standing at a spot where children were picked up for school. The daughter of the school's director was seriously injured in the attack, said Charles Ben Semoun, a parent of another child in the school.
Police in southwestern France launched a major manhunt last week after the killing of three paratroopers and the wounding of another in two separate, but connected incidents. The perpetrator of both attacks fled on a motorbike.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant ordered security to be tightened around all Jewish schools in France after the attack at Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse.
Israel's foreign ministry declared itself 'horrified' by the attack. "We are horrified by this attack and we trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice," Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said there was as yet no evidence to suggest the soldiers had been killed because of their service in Afghanistan. Between 50 and 60 police officers, including anti-terrorist specialists, have been drafted in to the investigation.
Senior military officials have ordered troops based in the region not to wear their uniforms outside barracks. But the first victim, a 30-year-old non-commissioned officer, was dressed in civilian clothes when he was shot dead in the street at point blank range last Sunday 11 March.
The gunman, clad in a black motorcycle outfit and wearing a helmet with a visor, escaped on a powerful scooter. On Thursday three more paratroopers, based this time in Montauban, 46 kilometres (28 miles) away, were shot while standing at a cash machine outside their barracks to.
Police forensics experts said Friday the same pistol was used in both attacks.
Two of Thursday's victims – sappers from 17th Parachute Engineering Regiment (RGP) aged 26 and 24 – died on the spot. The third man, a 28-year-old from the same regiment was left in a critical condition with spinal injuries.
Witnesses saw a black-clad motorcyclist walk up to the men, who were in uniform but unarmed, and open fire at point blank range.
Witnesses described how the killer had time to turn over one of the wounded men who was trying to crawl away and fire three more shots into him before getting back on his scooter and making his escape.
The increased security measures apply to a whole swathe of the southwest, including Toulouse, Montauban, Pamiers and Tarbes, towns and cities that are home to most of France's elite airborne units.
Gueant was due to arrive in Toulouse later in the morning, officials said.