French special forces soldiers used a series of controlled explosions at the apartment of suspected Toulouse killer, Mohammad Merah to try to "wear him down" psychologically, according to reports.
Three loud blasts were heard and orange flashes lit up the night sky at the apartment around midnight, the Associated Press reported, adding that hundreds of heavily armed police had the five-story building in southwest France surrounded.
Hours after the explosions Thursday, two new blasts and a burst of gunfire were heard, the AP reported.
However, the news service quoted officials as saying no full-out assault was under way. "It's not as simple as that. We are waiting," said Toulouse prosecutor, Michel Valet.
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French anti-terrorism forces — under orders to seize Merah, 24, alive — are engaged in marathon negotiations with the young Islamic activist accused of killing three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi over eight days in southwest France, the Washington Post reported.
An Interior Ministry official said Merah had gone back on a pledge to turn himself in, and that police blew up the shutters outside the apartment window to pressure him to surrender.
According to Agence France-Presse, an earlier attempt by members of the RAID police special forces team to storm the apartment ended in gunfire.
Officials say Merah, who is of Algerian descent and has visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, is armed with a Kalashnikov high-velocity rifle, a mini-Uzi 9mm machine pistol, several handguns and possibly grenades.
Merah, who has links to Al Waeda, had boasted of bringing France "to its knees," said he had killed the seven to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children.
GlobalPost reports: Profile of Mohammed Merah, Toulouse shooting suspect
Meanwhile, President Sarkozy has visited a police station near the building where Merah was negotiating with police, though he left the station without making any comments to the media.
AFP cited a Jewish leader as saying Sarkozy told religious community representatives that the gunman had planned to carry out another attack on Wednesday. It also quoted a police source as saying he planned to kill another soldier.
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