(CBS/AP) TOULOUSE - A gunman on a motorbike opened fire Monday at a Jewish school, killing a rabbi and his two young sons as they waited for a bus, then chased down a 7-year-old girl, shooting her dead at point-blank range. It was the latest in a series of attacks on minorities that have raised fears of a racist killer on the loose.
Authorities said the same weapon, a powerful .45-caliber handgun, was used in two other recent shootings in southwestern France, also involving an assailant who fled by motorbike. Those attacks left three people dead - military paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin.
The shootings echoed across a nation that has been focused on an upcoming presidential race in which issues about religious minorities and race have gained prominence. President Nicolas Sarkozy - facing a hard re-election battle - raised the terrorism alert level in the region to its highest level, while also noting a possible racist motive.
"This act is despicable, it cannot go unpunished," Sarkozy said in a prime-time address to the nation. "Each time this man acts, he acts to kill, giving his victims no chance."
In a strange twist to the case, the French interior minister said Tuesday that the gunman may have captured images or video of the attack. Speaking in Toulouse, Claude Gueant said that the attacker was wearing a camera on a strap around his neck. Asked whether the gunman captured any images or possibly even video at the scene, Gueant said it was a "distinct possibility."
He said authorities were combing the Internet to see if the killer posted any video online, but had not yet found any traces.
Monday's attack was as quick and methodical as it was terrifying.
At around 8 a.m., with more than 100 students and other worshippers inside a synagogue adjoining the Ozar Hatorah school, the gunman coolly got off his motor scooter. He opened fire at 30-year-old Jonathan Sandler, a rabbi who taught at the school, and his sons, 4-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Arieh, while they waited for a bus to a Jewish primary school across town.
As the shots rang out, panicked students darted inside the school grounds and the attacker chased them, witnesses said. At one point, he grabbed the principal's 7-year-old daughter, Miriam Monsonego, by her hair, shot her in the head and fled.
Cries of, "There are shots! there are shots!" rang out in the synagogue, recalled a 29-year-old neighbor who gave only his first name, Baroukh. He said some children took refuge in a basement.
Nicole Yardeni, a local Jewish official who saw security video of the attack, described the shooter as "determined, athletic and well-toned." She said he wore a helmet with the visor down.
"You see a man park his motorcycle, start to shoot, enter the school grounds and chase children to catch one and shoot a bullet into her head," Yardeni said. "It's unbearable to watch and you can't watch anymore after that. He was looking to kill."
Toulouse Prosecutor Michel Valet said a 17-year-old boy was also seriously wounded.
"He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults," Valet said. "The children were chased inside the school."
All of the dead were dual Israeli-French citizens, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. By 8 p.m., as a dozen police blocked access to the school, cries again echoed from within as community members mourned over the victims' bodies before they were to be flown to Israel for burial.
Authorities immediately increased security at schools and synagogues around the country. The attack revolted France, where school shootings are extremely rare, and drew strong condemnation from Israel and the United States.
France has suffered bouts of criminal anti-Semitism over the years, often targeting synagogues or Jewish cemeteries. Monday's slayings were the deadliest to target a Jewish site since Palestinian militants shot and killed six people in the popular Jo Goldenberg deli in Paris' Marais district in 1982.