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Suspect in Jewish museum killings went to Syria

French Suspect Arrested In Brussels Jewish Museum Shooting

PARIS (AP) - A suspected French jihadist who spent time in Syria is in custody over the shooting deaths of three people at a Belgian Jewish museum, prosecutors said Sunday, crystalizing fears that European radicals will parlay their experiences in Syria into terrorism back home.

When Mehdi Nemmouche was arrested in southern France on Friday, he was in possession of firearms, a large quantity of ammunition and a video claiming responsibility for the May 24 attack, a Belgian prosecutor said.

In a one-minute rampage that deeply shook Europe's Jewish community, a gunman opened fire at the Brussels museum. In addition to the fatalities, another person was gravely wounded.

Authorities raised anti-terror alert levels as they searched for the attacker. But it was ultimately a customs inspection in the French port city of Marseille that turned up Nemmouche, as he disembarked from a bus coming from Amsterdam, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

The suspect had a revolver and a retractable automatic weapon like those used in the Brussels attack, and ballistics analyses were underway to determine if they were used in the attack, Molins said.

At least one of the weapons was wrapped up in a white sheet scrawled with the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an extremist group fighting in Syria, Molins said.

Nemmouche, a 29-year-old from northern France, had a criminal record, with seven convictions for crimes like attempted robbery - but nothing related to terrorism, Molins said.

He said the suspect became radicalized in prison, and left for Syria just three weeks after his last prison stay in late 2012, going to Syria via Brussels, London and Istanbul. He said the suspect had spent about a year in Syria, though it is unclear why he went and what he did while there.

Belgian federal prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw, in a separate news conference in Brussels on Sunday, said the suspect had tried to film the killings on May 24, but his camera failed.

A video found in his possession shows his weapons and clothes, and includes a voice claiming responsibility for the "attack in Brussels against Jews," Van Leeuw said. He said it wasn't certain whether the voice was that of the suspect.

Belgian police carried out raids in the Courtrai region of Belgium on Sunday morning, where the suspect is believed to have spent time, and were questioning two people there, Van Leeuw said.

The suspect has been handed to anti-terrorist investigators and could be held at least through Tuesday under French counterterrorism law.

"The new elements in this investigation draw attention once more to the problem of the 'returnees' -in other words the people going to Syria to participate in combat and return afterward to our country," Van Leeuw said. "All European countries are confronted at this moment with this problem."

Interior ministers from around the European Union are expected to focus on strengthening ways to stem Syria-related violence when they meet in Brussels on Thursday. Belgium's interior minister, Joelle Milquet, called the returnees "a generalized problem for all of Europe."

The Brussels killings, which came on the eve of European parliament elections in which far right parties had a strong showing, led Belgian officials to boost their anti-terror measures, and raised fears of rising anti-Semitism.

Two Israeli citizens and a French citizen were killed in the shooting, and a fourth victim remains hospitalized between life and death, the Belgian prosecutor said Sunday.

The European Jewish Congress welcomed the arrest in France and urged European authorities to act faster and more aggressively to prevent such crimes.

The suspect has said nothing to investigators so far during his interrogations, Molins said.

Nemmouche's former lawyer, Soulifa Badaoui, described him on BFM television as someone "in difficulty" who went from foster home to foster home and often lived in vehicles. She said he didn't seem like someone capable of such violence, but was an intelligent person with serious family problems.

The attack and the arrest highlight the challenge for European authorities in tracking extremists, often alienated youths from immigrant backgrounds and few job prospects, when they travel to and from Syria.

French President Francois Hollande promised Sunday to "fight" homegrown radicals who come home from Syria with violent plans.

Hundreds of people have left from France alone to fight in Syria's three-year civil war with Islamic extremists. The French government recently introduced new measures to try to stop disaffected youth from leaving in the first place, and better track those who go to Syria and come back.

Hollande said those efforts would be "amplified" in the coming months, without elaborating.

"The whole government is mobilized to follow the jihadists, and prevent them from being able to cause harm" especially when they come home to France or elsewhere in Europe, Hollande said on an official visit to Normandy.

The attack and the arrest revived memories of Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman who trained with extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then attacked a Jewish school and French paratroopers in southern France in 2012.

He killed seven people, including three children, before dying in a shootout with police. Those killings rocked France, prompting tougher anti-terrorism measures aimed at better tracking French citizens who pursue extremism abroad.


John-Thor Dahlburg reported from Brussels. Angela Charlton contributed from Paris.

Join the discussion

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Suzanne Brian June 01 2014 at 3:14 PM

Another great moment for the Religion of Peace. Notice how the moderate Muslims never speak out. There are only two kinds of Muslims, Terrorist and Cowards.

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46 replies
yy4columbus June 01 2014 at 3:24 PM

While Arabs insist that they are solely opposed to Zionists in Israel, they persist in murdering Jews at random. Radicalized Arabs hate jews. They have been taught to hate Jews by their families and foremost by their clerics.

Were someone to randomly murder Muslims and their children as they depart from Mosques or other Muslim meeting places a cry would be heard across the firmament that only barbarians murder people at random.

Please tell us all that random murders are not genetic among Arabs and Muslims and that those who are opposed to this evil being committed will be obstructed and stopped by those who do not wish Islam's reputation to be besmirched as it is now.

Muslim clerics know who is doing this but will not hinder them because they murder Dhimmis whose lives are of no value in Islam. It is the mark of Islam's centuries long departure from any semblence of any connection to civilization.

Islam slid into a dark age nearly 1,000 years ago and ardently cleaves to it

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15 replies
dannydmc June 01 2014 at 3:42 PM

Love reading all the liberal apologists trying to compare Islam to other religions. Just goes to show that not only are liberals ignorant, but stupid as well. Islam is a religion of violence done in the NAME of religion. Liberal stupidity wont be solved until they bomb THEIR house.

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23 replies
drmbd627 June 01 2014 at 3:15 PM

I a glad they arrested him. Now the police needs to arrest his supporters and execute all of them.

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8 replies
mymajor1 June 01 2014 at 3:35 PM

These radicals won't be happy until they wipe out every Jew and Christian in the world.

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11 replies
slapshot6665 June 01 2014 at 3:34 PM

Religous cowards hiding in the most overrun country. France is a perfect place for Islamists (AKA The Cream Of The Crap) to hide. The French care not for anyone! Islam is the only religion that preaches hate and reward for murder. When judgement day comes, everyone of these pieces of crap will not see heaven, but will die with Lucifer and his idiotic ideas.

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3 replies
napa422 June 01 2014 at 3:15 PM


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8 replies
Kenny June 01 2014 at 3:29 PM

Pull his arms and legs off.

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1 reply
CPA11973 Kenny June 01 2014 at 6:14 PM

sort of poetic justice since Europe doen't have the death penalty - amputate all his limbs and then send him back to Syria.

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2 replies
jerachrome CPA11973 June 01 2014 at 8:57 PM

Don't forget to also castrate him and stuff his balls in his mouth. That's what terrorists do to many of their victims.

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ngagnon558 CPA11973 June 02 2014 at 9:00 AM

after the amputations, throw him in the ocean and see if he can swim home

Flag +1 rate up
bradjud June 01 2014 at 3:25 PM

just like the french revolution off with there heads an balls they dont need them

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1 reply
HWOODTX61 bradjud June 02 2014 at 2:21 AM

They have no balls.

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Jim Stone June 01 2014 at 7:32 PM

Muslims following the ways of evil as if possessed by the devil.

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1 reply
chaparita0728 Jim Stone June 01 2014 at 7:44 PM

Like some of those nasty Christians who play god and shoot abortion doctors?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
onionson chaparita0728 June 02 2014 at 3:15 PM

No, the ones who shoot abortion doctors and not good Christians and will be judged accordingly. Two wrongs do not make a right. The Muslims on the other hand consider this an act of good. See the difference now?

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