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French shooting suspect had escaped from Afghan prison

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - French school shooting suspect Mohamed Merah had been arrested for bomb making in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar in 2007 but escaped months later in a Taliban prison break, the director of prisons in Kandahar told Reuters.

Merah, a French citizen of Algerian origin, was suspected of killing seven people in the name of al Qaeda, including three children at a Jewish school in southwestern France.

Kandahar prison chief Ghulam Faruq said that security forces detained Merah on December 19, 2007, and he was sentenced to three years in jail for planting bombs in Kandahar province, the Taliban's birthplace.

Merah escaped jail along with up to 1,000 prisoners, including 400 Taliban insurgents, during a Taliban attack on southern Afghanistan's main prison in June 2008.

France's Interior Minister Claude Gueant said that the gunman had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan and had carried out his killings in revenge for French military involvement abroad.

(Reporting by Ahmad Nadem; Writing by Jack Kimaball; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Robert Birsel)

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