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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Killing Raises Questions in France

PARIS -- The killing of France's most wanted bombing suspect, Khaled Kelkal, sparked controversy Monday over whether gendarmes could have captured him alive and whether television should have shown his body live on prime-time news.


Kelkal was suspected of involvement in the murder of exiled Algerian fundamentalist leader Sheikh Abdelbaki Sahraoui in Paris last July and in a wave of bombings in both the capital and the Lyon region thereafter.


Following a three-day manhunt, gendarmerie paratroopers shot him dead Friday night when he fired at them as they approached him in the hamlet of Maison Blanche in wooded hills outside the central city of Lyon.


"Once Kelkal was wounded and on the ground, could he not have been made to surrender without being killed?" asked Jean-Claude Bouvier, general secretary of the left-wing Magistrates' Union in an interview with the newspaper Lib?ration.


According to an official account corroborated by television journalists who witnessed the shoot-out, the gendarmes opened fire after Kelkal, ordered to surrender, drew a gun and fired several shots at them. Kelkal fell wounded to the ground.


The official account said Kelkal raised his gun again and the gendarmes then fired a second time, killing him. However, a Swiss newspaper, Le Nouveau Quotidien, said the paratroopers had deliberately "finished off" Kelkal.


And while the killing caused controversy, France 2 television's decision to broadcast live footage of a gendarme touching Kelkal's body with his foot to make sure he was dead also sparked anger.


Commentators said that the showing of such images could make Kelkal, a petty delinquent apparently converted to militant Islam in prison, a hero for thousands of unemployed youths of Arab origin in France's tinderbox suburban slums. Broadcasting authority president Herv? Bourges said repeated screening of film of Kelkal's corpse "could turn him into a martyr on both sides of the Mediterranean."


The killing of Kelkal sparked sporadic violence in his home area of Vaulx-en-Velin, a suburb of Lyon. Gangs of youths burned more than 30 cars on Sunday night after torching 23 vehicles on Saturday. Police made several arrests.


And commentators said the shooting of the 24-year-old Algerian left a string of unanswered questions about who was really behind the murder of Sahraoui and the bomb attacks.


Investigators argued that he would not have chosen to kill the fundamentalist leader without being ordered to do so.