COPS probing the fatal shootings of a teacher and three children at a Jewish school are hunting three soldiers sacked over claims they were neo-Nazis.
The men were all axed from their elite paratrooper regiment in 2008 after a photo surfaced of them giving Nazi salutes in front of a Swastika flag.
Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, his two sons Aryeh, three, and Gavriel Yissacher, six, as well as eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego were shot dead by a motorbike gunman outside Ozar Hatorah college in Toulouse, France, today.
Miriam was the daughter of the school’s headteacher.
Their deaths come days after three soldiers — from the same 17th Parachute Engineer Regiment with which the sacked trio served — were shot dead in broad daylight in Montauban 30 miles away last Thursday.
Another solider was also shot in a Toulouse street by a motorcycle gunman on March 11.
A French news magazine said all the victims were of Jewish, black or North African Arab background.
It added: “The profile of these men corresponds to the scant information investigators have on the Toulouse killer — that is to say muscular and tattoed.”
Public prosecutor Michel Valet said after the latest attack: “Shortly before eight o’clock a man on a powerful scooter or a motorbike dismounted and shot at everything he could see. At children as well as adults.
“The man initially used a 9mm pistol after riding up to the school on his scooter.
“When this jammed he used a .45 calibre weapon, and chased pupils inside the school.”
Five other people were injured in the attack, including one 17-year-old college student who is fighting for his life.
A centre has been set up inside the school to provide psychological support to children and parents.
Witness Franck Califa said: “For now, I have only tears. I’m in shock. I do not think things like that can happen. I held one of the victims in my arms.”
Around 130 children and teachers hid in the building and an adjoining synagogue after the shots were fired.
Another witness said: “It was chaos.”
French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who flew to Toulouse in the morning, said: “This is an appalling tragedy.
“The whole of the French Republic has been affected by this abominable crime.”
Patrick Rouimi, who works at the college, said the killer was riding a black motorbike and wearing a black crash helmet.
He said he heard bursts of gunfire at a set-down and collection point for children at the college, who are aged from 11 to 17.
A Toulouse police spokesman said: “This is the third drive-by motorbike shooting in this region in a week, and clearly possible links will be explored.”
France’s chief rabbi Gilles Bernheim said he was “shell-shocked” by the attack.
He added: “I am utterly horrified by what happened in Toulouse this morning, which has wounded my body and my soul.
“I am shell-shocked and leaving immediately for Toulouse.”
Israel said today it was “horrified” by the shooting.
Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: “We are horrified by this attack and we trust the French authorities to shed full light on this tragedy and bring the perpetrators of these murders to justice.”
French interior minister Claude Gueant this morning ordered security to be stepped up at all Jewish schools around France.
Mr Gueant had cancelled an engagement in Mulhouse, eastern France, and was flying to Toulouse where he will visit the scene of the shooting and meet officials later this morning.
Last week army officials ordered soldiers to wear civilian clothes when off-base in the Toulouse region amid fears that a serial killer with a hatred of the military might be on the loose.
France has received a number of terrorist threats in recent years from groups opposed to the presence of French troops in Afghanistan.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was “horrified” by the incident.
He said: “The British Government expresses its deep and sincere sympathy for the families and friends of the victims and for the entire Jewish community in France.
“This act of calculated cruelty will unite all decent people in revulsion and condemnation. There is no excuse for such acts of appalling violence.”