In the end, a Muslim fundamentalist has emerged from the hell of Toulouse. It is not a neo-Nazi paratrooper incubating in the obscure entrails of French history, but a soldier of that daily intifada simmering in French suburbs.

A muffled guerrilla war is growing from Toulouse to Paris, in those "lost territories of the Republic," as they are called in a widely-circulated pamphlet that documents and exposes the ordinary anti-Semitism that reigns in suburban schools. It is this obscure evil, particularly tenacious in France, that links the possibilities explored by the investigators and public opinion during these blood-stained days of murderous folly.

The result is three young soldiers (of North African descent) killed in cold-blood, another seriously wounded and four other people (three children and a man) hunted down and slaughtered like animals in a Jewish middle school in Toulouse (known as the Pink City) which houses the tomb of Saint Thomas, the most reasonable of Christian philosophers.

The dregs of society

It was first thought that the killer might be one of the three paratroopers disciplined, because of their neo-Nazi sympathies, by Montauban's 17th Paratrooper Regiment. A picture of the three men, posing with arms raised in the Nazi salute, draped in a flag bedecked with a swastika, was published in the press. The three young fanatics are white and French. Their profiles fit the type for the assassin. That of someone taking vengeance on the brothers in arms who turned him in, but who also kills three soldiers of North African origin before attacking Jews in a school. This is the prototype of a Le Pen [far-right] activist, which doesn't mean that all those voting for Jean-Marie Le Pen before or for his daughter Marine today [Marine Le Pen is running for the French presidency] are all budding assassins.

Reality has designated another guilty party, this Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent (a second-generation immigrant, as a widely-used French oxymoron would have it), who, at 1am on Wednesday, called the switchboard of television station France 24 to unveil the reasons for this atrocity. He talked to the editor in charge – Ebba Kalondo, a woman of African origin (we are in a multi-cultural society) with a soft, calm voice.

Mohamed Merah told her that he is affiliated to Al-Qaeda and claims to want to "avenge our little brothers and sisters in Palestine," to denounce France's law against wearing the burqa, as well as the French army's participation in the Afghan war.

How is it possible that two such different and even opposed outcomes were envisaged to explain these two massacres? The answer is that they are both plausible. The Islamist terrorist and the neo-Nazi paratrooper belong to the dregs of society, two opposite nightmares which live side by side without negating each other, but which, on the contrary, re-enforce one another.

A stronger and less accessible France

The blown-fuse reaction observed in Toulouse already happened last July in Oslo during the massacre perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik which left eight dead in a bomb blast and 69 killed by gunshot in a campground full of youthful Social-Democrats. The police first suspected the act was undertaken by Islamic terrorists against young westerners. In fact, the guilty party was a 30-something, blond-haired Norwegian who calls himself a pro-Israeli, fundamentalist Christian, and who is hostile to multi-culturalism, Marxism and Islam. He wanted to strike at the young socialists, whom he holds responsible for massive Muslim immigration.

The two nightmares are different, yet complementary and compatible to the point that politics, in a particularly harsh presidential campaign, was suspended for a few hours, out of respect for the victims, of course, in accordance with that French 'savoir-vivre' that is taught in schools. But also to have time to understand and to not do anything out of line. The tone is firm [President Nicolas] Sarkozy has made immigration and foreigners in general his battle-cry in an effort to counter Marine Le Pen, so much so that the [conservative] Wall Street Journal has dubbed him “Nicolas Le Pen”.

The president has promised the French a stronger and less accessible France. He's even raised the issue of opting out of the Schengen Treaty which ensures the free movement of populations within the countries of the European Union. An idea which does not sit well with [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, who no longer seems keen to participate in 'Sarko's' election rallies, as she had promised. This is the climate currently reigning in this France in which Mohamed Merah, a solitary Al-Qaeda sleeper cell for years in the Mirail district of Toulouse, decided to take action. It could have been a neo-Nazi paratrooper; instead it is bin Laden's ghost. And that is not at all reassuring.