TOULOUSE, France (AP) - The French interior minister says a suspect in three deadly attacks has thrown his handgun out a window but has other weapons on him and has used them in volleys with police surrounding a building in this southwestern city.
Claude Gueant said Wednesday the 24-year-old suspect, who is surrounded by police in the building and claiming links to al-Qaida, is talking to a police negotiator and says he'll surrender in the afternoon. The minister says police want to take him alive.
Gueant says the suspect has an AK47 machine gun and other weapons.
Hundreds of policemen swept into a residential neighborhood in northern Toulouse early Wednesday and exchanged fire with the suspect.
Three policemen were wounded in the operation, which is still ongoing, Gueant said. The suspect's brother was arrested.
The man was known to authorities for having spent time in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gueant said.
The shooting suspect, who is a French national, is "talking a lot, claiming his jihadist convictions" and calling himself a "mujahedeen."
"He said he wants to avenge the deaths of Palestinians," the minister said, adding that he is "less explicit" about killing French paratroopers.
Authorities have been conducting a massive manhunt across a swath of southern France after seven people were killed in three attacks over the past several days, and France's terror alert level was raised to its highest level ever in the region.
A French paratrooper was killed in Toulouse on March 11, two other paratroopers were killed and one injured on Thursday in the nearby town of Montauban, and three children and a rabbi were killed in a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday.
The paratroopers were of Muslim and French Caribbean origin, but the interior minister said the suspect told them the ethnic origin has nothing to do with his actions. "He's after the army."
"The conversation he has with a police officer follows a request he made to have a means of communication with the police," Gueant said. "This means of communication he gave in exchange for a Colt 45 that he threw out the window."
The minister did not say how the communication was taking place.