A French television channel has defended its stand on broadcasting a suspected assailant's conversation with police after the families of the victims expressed fury over the issue.

The French police have also initiated an official probe in order to find out the source of the broadcast.

On Sunday, TF1, a French television channel, broadcast a conversation between the alleged Islamic assailant Mohamed Merah and the police. Merah killed seven people including three Jewish children in March, according to the police. He was shot dead later.

While the official investigation into the incident is still on, the conversation was aired, which could be a violation of French rules on privacy of investigations, according to the police.

The incident has reportedly shaken the country and once again reminded it of extremist violence.

As the interior ministry pledged to get to the bottom of the leak, the production house which was responsible for airing the conversation refused to hand over the complete material, according to an AFP report.

The conversation involving Merah and the police revealed how the police negotiated with the suspect during a 32-hour ordeal in Toulouse.

"We did this with a perfect awareness of its news value. I think this document proves that, right up to the end of the raid, the negotiators were trying to detain Mohamed Merah -- and to detain him alive," AFP quoted Catherine Nayl, the news director who was responsible for the Sunday night programme, as saying.

Nayl added that the recordings revealed that Merah was "in cold blood with absolute determination... had created a character for himself."

Nayl defended the broadcast as saying the media's role is to inform people, which was what was being done regarding this matter.

Merah was thought to have links with or inspired by the terrorist group al-Qaida. In the exchange aired by TF1 the militant says: "I know that there's a chance you could kill me, that's a risk I'm taking. So there we are -- know that you are up against a man who is not afraid of death," according to AFP.

Meanwhile, the families of the victims are outraged by the broadcast and are likely to file complaints.

"We are not going to wait for the video of the crimes to appear on the Internet. The prosecutor must stop this," said a lawyer of a victim's family, Mehana Mouhou, according to the Associated Press.