At least four people, including three children, were killed, when a man on a scooter opened fire outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwestern France on Monday, officials said.
The attack also left several injured, two of them seriously, and followed the killing of three soldiers in two separate shootings in the same region last week by a man who escaped on a scooter.
BFM TV news channel said that the gun used in the attack at the Ozar Hatorah school was of the same calibre as that used in the soldiers' shootings, but a spokesman for the interior ministry could not immediately confirm this.
President Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled other appointments and was on his way to Toulouse on Monday morning, accompanied by Education Minister Luc Chatel and the president of the CRIF French Jewish association, Richard Prasquier.
"I saw two people dead in front of the school, an adult and a child ... Inside, it was a vision of horror, the bodies of two small children," a distraught father whose child attends the school told RTL radio.
"I did not find my son, apparently he fled when he saw what happened. How can they attack something as sacred as a school, attack children only sixty centimetres tall?"
Several other people were injured, two of them seriously.
A rabbi at the school, identified as Rahamim Sabag, told Israel's channel two television that the dead were a 30-year old rabbi who taught at the school, the rabbi's five-year-old son and two eight-year old children, one of them the daughter of the school's principal.
A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry, Yigal Palmor, expressed outrage at the killings: "We are following with great shock reports coming from Toulouse and we trust the French authorities will solve this crime and bring those responsible to justice."
A spokesman for the interior ministry said that security was being tightened at all Jewish schools in the country.
About 50 investigators are already looking into the killings of two soldiers on Thursday in the town of Montauban, close to Toulouse, as they tried to withdraw money from a cash machine close to the barracks of the 17th parachute regiment.
A third soldier was killed the previous weekend in Toulouse. Investigators had already confirmed on Friday that the same weapon had been used in both incidents.
(Reporting by Guillaume Serries in Toulouse, Thierry Leveque and Nicolas Bertin in Paris, Jeffrey Heller and Maayan Lubel in Jerusalem; writing by Daniel Flynn and Leigh Thomas; editing by Geert De Clercq/Patrick Graham)
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.