REIMS, France (AP) — Five years after his brother killed seven people in the name of Islam, Abdelghani Merah is walking across France to preach tolerance and warn against the dangers of religious radicalism.
Mohamed Merah killed three soldiers in southern France in March 2012. He then turned his anger on the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, where he killed a rabbi and his two sons, aged 4 and 5, and an 8-year-old girl.
Abdelghani has denounced the attacks and the radicalization of Mohamed and another brother, Abdelkader. Mohamed was killed in a police shootout and Abdelkader faces trial.
Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan before returning home. He was 23 when he attacked paratroopers and a Jewish school, claiming links to al-Qaida.
Abdelghani told The Associated Press on Friday that "before becoming a monster, Mohamed Merah was a child like all the others, happy, he wanted to live. People are not born terrorists, they become terrorists."
His brother "became a terrorist via the people who manipulated him, who used him for their propaganda and who have dehumanized him. He had been brainwashed," he said. "They simply stole his heart and his brain."
Abdelghani left Marseille on Feb. 8 for his walk across France and hopes to meet the justice minister Sunday in Paris to encourage stronger de-radicalization measures.
He says he knows that some people in France are offended by his trek.
"I know that the name 'Merah' is hated. I can understand that. I won't change it," he explained, adding that he does not want Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group to use his brother's name for their propaganda. "I want this name, for once, to raise awareness."
Islamic extremists have killed 235 people in France since January 2015.
Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this story.