“It’s insane, completely mad,” says Mohamed Merah, a Lyon resident. “My life was just turned upside down,” he told the French daily Ouest France. “For thirty hours, he lived holed up in his flat. I was confined to my bed.”
Merah bears the same name as the lone gunman who killed seven people, including three Jewish children, a rabbi and three paratroopers in the city of Toulouse in southwestern France.
On Wednesday morning, the media reported that the main suspect in a spate of killings in the region was called Mohamed Merah. That’s when trouble started for all those who were called Merah, a common Algerian surname, in France.
Some say they were harassed on the phone. Others say they received insults on their Facebook accounts or that their friends and employees were warned they might be in contact with a killer.
“People were publishing my photo on the internet, they said I was his spitting image,” a Mohamed Merah in Lyon told Ouest France. “I’m the same age, have the same origins, so people jumped to conclusions.”
On Thursday, the self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda militant Mohamed Merah was shot when special forces of the French police stormed the building where he was holed up. But it’s unlikely his name or face will be forgotten soon.