PARIS/ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian authorities have refused to allow the body of an al Qaeda-inspired gunman who killed seven people in France this month to be sent there for burial, an Algerian government source and an official at a top French mosque said on Thursday.
Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian origin who was shot dead by a police sniper last week following a more than 30-hour siege at his home in the southern city of Toulouse, will instead be buried there, Abdallah Zekri told Reuters.
Zekri, an adviser to the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris who was in Toulouse dealing with the funeral arrangements, said the mayor of the Algerian village of Bezzaz, where Merah's father wanted him buried, had declined the request for security reasons.
"The mayor of Bezzaz gave a negative response," he said. "He should be buried within 24 hours, probably in the Toulouse region, but it will be kept strictly private."
An Algerian government source confirmed that the North African government had refused to admit Merah's body for burial in his home village, as requested by the gunman's father.
"Algeria has nothing to do with this case, and we do not understand why some circles in France are trying to involve us in it. This is why we took the decision to not admit the body for now in Algeria," said the source, who asked not to be named. "This is a temporary decision."
On Wednesday, Mohamed Merah's father, Mohamed Benalel Merah, told Reuters that transferring the required paperwork from the consulate in Toulouse to the Algerian region of Medea, where the desolate hamlet of Bezzaz is located, meant it could take some time before the body could be flown there.
Merah, 23, a self-styled Islamist radical, confessed during the police standoff to having shot dead three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish children at point-blank range in a spate of attacks that shook France a month from a presidential election.
His father has lashed out at French authorities for killing his son rather than arresting him and putting him on trial, and says he wants to sue the French government.
Merah's body is currently at a hospital morgue in Toulouse and prosecutors are investigating his elder brother, Abdelkader, for possible complicity in the case.
(Reporting by Gerard Bon in Paris and Lamine Chikhi in Algiers; Writing by Catherine Bremer; Editing by Toby Chopra)