20/03/2012 06:15 GMT | Updated 20/05/2012 06:12 BST

Toulouse Shooting: Police Hunt Dismissed Neo-Nazi Soldiers After Horrific Murders

Police in France are hunting three former soldiers who were fired for joining a suspected neo-Nazi gang in connection with three shootings near Toulouse which have left seven people dead.

The men, described by French media as "muscular and tattooed", were dismissed in 2008 after they were pictured giving a Nazi salute in front of a swastika flag.

Police have linked the men to the shooting of three soldiers from their former regiment, the 17th Parachute Engineers, on 15 March. Two soldiers died in the attack and a third was critically injured.

France’s Le Point news magazine said: “This is the first real lead the police have. [It is believed] there could be a link to the three soldiers dismissed from the army four years ago.

"The profile of these men corresponds to the scant information investigators have on the Toulouse killer, that is to say, muscular and tattooed.

"This lead is being followed up by both civilian and military authorities.”

The shooting on 15 March followed another attack on 11 March, in which a soldier was shot and killed outside a gym in Toulouse.

All of the soldiers were reported to have been black or of north African origin.

Four people including three children were shot dead outside a Jewish school on Monday.

Police linked the school shooting to the attacks on soldiers because in all three attacks the gunman was reported to have ridden a black motorbike or scooter, and used either a 9mm pistol or a .45 calibre gun.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy said there were “similarities” between the shootings, but said the country must wait for police to carry out their investigations before the “hypothesis” could be confirmed.

View Toulouse Shooting in a larger map