Mohammed Merah, the suspect accused of killing four people at a Jewish school and three soldiers in south west France, has been found dead after a sustained gun battle with police.
Two police officers were injured, one seriously, in a daring raid on Merah's flat in Toulouse on Thursday, following a two-day siege.
Prosecutors said he was shot in the head by a police sniper as he attempted to flee the flat by jumping out of the window.
French interior minister Claude Gueant gave an extraordinary account of the raid, telling reporters that police found Merah hiding in the bathroom and that he started "shooting wildly" at police before leaping out of the window.
He was found dead with a weapon in his hand.
Gueant said police decided to go into the apartment at 10:30am: "The raid police decided to enter into the apartment, they entered through the front door first also by the windows.
"The shutters had been closed and the panes had been removed therefore the unit had entered aware of the danger and the threat. We sent in special cameras to be able to see where he was, but we could not locate him. It was when we were able to look into the bathroom that is where he came out the bathroom shooting madly at everybody.
"[The police] had never seen anything like this kind of violence, therefore the raid police had to protect themselves at the end. Mohammed Merah jumped out of the window with a weapon in his hand continuing to shoot all around him. He was found dead on the ground."
The 23-year-old student believed to be behind a series of shooting sprees was earlier quoted as saying he "wants to die with a gun in his hand" as police surrounded his flat.
Merah, who claimed to have links to an al-Qaeda fringe group, had earlier indicated he would surrender.
French police had been carrying out a series of explosions overnight to keep the suspect awake.
Merah, who is of Algerian extraction, was accused of opening fire at the Ozar Hartorah school on Monday, killing three children and a rabbi. He was said to be acting 'in revenge for Palestinian children' and has claimed to belong to a fringe group related to al-Qaeda.
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More: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/21/gunman-suspect-description_n_1370148.html" target="_hplink">Full Profile Of Suspected Gunman Mohammed Merah
Reuters had quoted the director of prisons in Khandahar, Afghanistan, who said Merah was arrested in 2007 but escaped en masse with other Taliban prisoners in 2008.
It was also reported that Merah had previously attempted to join the French military but was turned down because of his alleged criminal record.
Paris presecutor François Molins said that Merah was obsessed with watching graphic videos of beheadings and torture online, and said while he had trained at terrorist camps he did not have the "soul of a martyr" and was not prepared to die for his beliefs.
French commentator, Pierre Haski told the BBC's Newshour programme that "the mystery here is that he was found to have quite a good arsenal of weapons, war weapons, and given that he was under surveillance it's not clear how this could have escaped the attention of the authorities."