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Fresh gunfire erupts as police press Toulouse gunman to give in

(Xinhua)

13:17, March 22, 2012

TOULOUSE, France, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Brief bursts of gunfire and explosions rang out early Thursday outside the building where the main suspect in a string of killings in southern France holed up.

Heavily-armed riot police closed in the apartment block and set off explosions outside there in an effort to press the 24-year-old suspect Mohamed Merah to turn himself in as the standoff enters into a second day.

Three blasts were heard late Wednesday outside the building where the suspect in a string of killings in southern France was holed up.

Orange flashes were seen lighting up the sky near the apartment in the suburb of Toulouse as an official confirmed that police operation assaulting the suspect had begun.

About half an hour after the three blasts, no more explosions or gunfire were heard near the building.

Jean-Pierre Havrin, deputy mayor of Toulouse, confirmed to loacl media that the assault had begun.

Meanwhile according to BBC reports, the Interior Ministry has said the explosions were to "put pressure to the gunman, rather than indicating the start of an assault."

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said earlier on Wednesday the operation to arrest the suspected could last all the night.


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