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Timeline of French killings and gunman standoff

(AP) – A wave of killings by an Islamist extremist in southern France sparked the country’s biggest manhunt since the 1990s and a two-day standoff that ended Thursday after he was shot dead by police. Here is a timeline of what happened:

_ March 11: A French paratrooper is killed by a lone gunman on a motorbike in the city of Toulouse. Authorities say the killer had responded to an ad the victim placed offering to sell his motorcycle.

_ March 15: Two French paratroopers are killed and one is seriously injured when a gunman on a motorbike shoots them at a bank machine in Montauban, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Toulouse.

_ Monday, March 19: An attacker on a motorbike guns down three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France’s worst school shooting and the deadliest attack on Jews in France in three decades.

That night, police investigators tap the phones of the mother of Mohamed Merah, who had emerged as the chief suspect in the probe.

_ Tuesday, March 20: Schools across France hold a moment of silence to honor the school shooting victims. By afternoon, police trace Merah to an apartment in the Cote Pavee neighborhood of Toulouse.

10:00 p.m.: French officials meet, within half an hour police decided to arrest Merah, his mother and his brother.

_ Wednesday, March 21:

3:20 a.m.: Police descend on Merah’s apartment. Police say he opened fire when officers arrived, shooting one in the knee and a second in his bulletproof vest. Attempts to arrest him are repelled by gunfire and a protracted standoff ensues.

8:05 a.m.: French minister says Merah has thrown a handgun out window but still has other weapons.

12:30 p.m.: French police resume negotiations with Merah.

1:05 p.m.: Police union official says Merah has promised to turn himself in the next hour and a half, otherwise police will force their way in. Merah reneges on his pledge but the assault doesn’t materialize.

Soon before 9 p.m.: Street lights cut around Merah’s building to help police using night-vision goggles.

11:30 p.m.: Three explosions ring out from the building, accompanied by orange flashes of light _ a tactic police say aims to pressure Merah to give up.

_ Thursday, March 22:

1:40 a.m.: Two new blasts and brief bursts of gunfire ring out at the apartment. Sporadic blasts are heard throughout the night at one-hour intervals.

7:10 a.m.: French interior minister says Merah wants to die “with weapons in his hands.”

11:30 a.m.: Police gingerly enter his apartment through the door and the windows. As they arrive, Merah bursts out of the bathroom, shooting officers with his Colt .45 and diving out a window. Officials say later he was shot in the head. Prosecutor Francois Molins insists police acted in self-defense.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)