Algerian fugitive linked to terrorist acts in France Police fatally shot the 24-year-old man


PARIS -- A young Algerian fugitive shot by the police near Lyons on Friday was apparently linked to at least three recent terrorist actions in France, officials said yesterday. But they said they were still uncertain about who was behind the wave of bombings that has stunned France over the last two months.

The police said that finding Khaled Kelkal, a 24-year-old unemployed resident of a Lyons suburb, was the first major break in the case.

They had searched for him for more than a month and finally declared him to be the most wanted man in France after finding his fingerprints on a bomb that had been planted but failed to explode. He was tracked down after nearly 800 police officers and soldiers stalked him for three days last week in the woods where he was hiding.

In the French press yesterday, commentators said they wondered whether it was necessary for security forces to have killed such a crucial witness at a moment when he was surrounded and clearly outgunned. The police said that Mr. Kelkal, who was alone, had fired first, and that after being wounded in the leg he fell to the ground and continued shooting. He was armed only with a handgun.

The manner in which Mr. Kelkal lived and died, however, suggests that the unemployed son of Algerian immigrants was at most a poorly trained hit man who may have been working for a still unidentified larger political group.

When the police moved in on him near a bus stop on a country road where he was waiting for an associate, Mr. Kelkal was dressed in combat boots and fatigues. Although his photograph had been seen across France on television, front pages of newspapers and wanted posters, he was wearing no disguise.

Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre announced yesterday that the government had evidence that Mr. Kelkal was involved in at least three terrorist actions, in the wave that started with the July 11 killing of a moderate Muslim cleric, Abdelbaki Sahraoui, at a mosque in Paris.

He said the police last week had found the weapon that had killed the cleric in the forest hide-out used by Mr. Kelkal. The police are also holding a man named Karim Koussa, 23, who they say is believed to be one of Mr. Kelkal's closest associates.

"I can tell you that Karim Koussa is one of the accomplices in the attack on Imam Sahraoui," Mr. Debre said at a news conference.

Investigators combing the forest hide-out also found detonators and timing devices that were "identical" with those used on two bombs.

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