"How did a small-time thief become a terrifying "lone wolf" terrorist, suspected of travelling throughout the Middle East to receive jihadist training? Why did he kill in cold blood three soldiers, a Jewish teacher and three young schoolchildren? Who was the real Mohamed Merah?and (note the legend building, like Atta's Florida cropduster loan incident):
His childhood friends in the tough northern Toulouse suburb of Izards all want answers.
"I just cannot believe he did all that," said 22-year-old Nico – a gangly, tracksuited youth with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled tightly around his pale face. "He was one of us; he wasn't some religious fanatic. He never even went to the mosque."
Aimen, a youth worker in his thirties whose sister is married to Merah's oldest brother, added: "Everyone is in shock. It doesn't seem real yet.""
"Nonetheless, his friends in Izards had no idea he harboured secret jihadist plans. "He never mentioned anything to do with Afghanistan," said Nico. "Sometimes he'd go abroad, but he said he was visiting family in Algeria. When he came out of prison he went through a phase of dressing in a funny way, wearing bandanas, and he even had his hair styled into a pink quiff. He was all about fashion, not radicalism."and:
Others in the district, however, did see the darker side of his double life.
"Two years ago he grabbed a kid off the street in Izards, and made him watch bloody videos of beheadings in Afghanistan," a woman named Malika told a local newspaper. "The mother found out and complained, but the police did nothing. Merah then went for revenge and turned up at the family's house in full military clothes, waving a sword and chanting 'Al Qaeda! Al Qaeda!'""
"Whatever his motivation, however, questions are now being asked over how he was overlooked by the French security services. Certainly the size of the arsenal he stockpiled – at least eight guns, including a Kalashnikov assault rifle and an Uzi machine pistol – raises questions about how someone known to the authorities could purchase such weapons."and:
"Mr Sarkozy took to the stage on Thursday night in Strasbourg, hours after the death of Merah, to promise new anti-terrorism laws. Thumping his fist on the dais, and against a backdrop that read "For a strong France", he milked the opportunity to appear as a firm, capable leader.
Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National challenger, tried to do the same, claiming that the French political elite had ignored her own warnings of about "radicalisation"."