Terrified neighbours of suspected Toulouse gunman Mohammed Merah "begged" police to be evacuated during an armed stand-off after they were told to shut themselves indoors.
Police surrounded the home of the man thought to have shot dead seven people in a series of attacks over the past ten days.
But while officials cut off gas supplies for fear of an explosion, they did not allow residents of the building to leave their homes, it was reported.
Distressed and scared for their lives, they called radio stations during the night, describing their ordeal.
A man living in the building told French television channel LCI: “I woke up, there was some noise, I could hear shots being fired, I came out on my balcony. There was a policeman who shone his flashlight on me telling me to return inside the house. I was a little stunned, I didn’t know what was going on.”
One woman was contacted by Europe 1 and anxiously told of her worries:
“I would like to pass on a message to the police forces so they can help us get out of the building because we are stuck here since 3am with shots being fired, no one is giving us updates and we should be evacuated.”
Another was in tears as she spoke to France Info:
“No one came to help us, no one is calling us, we don’t know what is going on, there are noises of shots being fired, there are voices of men talking to him but he won’t surrender. Now someone has to come get us.”
A neighbour contacted by the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, spoke with a journalist explaining her situation before the line was cut.
“The police are in front of the building, they are ready to shoot. I can’t see anything, but I hear shots being fired. I am very scared. I am mostly scared of a bomb explosion. I am thinking about it since earlier. Because there is no reason why he wouldn’t make the whole thing explode. He killed children who were three and four years-old, so he doesn’t care.”
“He’s a dangerous psychopath.”
“Around 5.35am, we heard shots being fired and the police screaming telling us not to go out, to close our windows. In any case, even if they hadn’t tell us to do so, I wouldn’t have gone out, I wouldn’t have put my children’s lives in danger.”
“His apartment is always closed, on the ground floor. As we live in a residence mostly dedicated to students, there are a lot of comings and goinds. We never really wondered much about this closed apartment, which always seems more or less empty.”
“To think that ten years ago we would sleep with our windows open, now we have to close our blinds.
"Until everyone is arrested, I will be scared.”
The inhabitants of Sergent Vigne Street have been evacuated by the police at 9am by bus towards a nearby barracks. Out of danger but still under shock, he witnesses of the raid expressed their bewilderment.
The father of one of Merah’s neighbours described him as a “normal person, he wasn’t even the noisest one in the building.”
The neighbours will be provided psychological assistance during the day, officials said.
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