Suspected gunman detained for Jewish museum shooting
By Pauline Talagrand and Andrea Bambino, AFP
June 2, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
PARIS -- A Frenchman with suspected ties to Islamic radicals in Syria has been arrested over last week's fatal shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, investigation sources told AFP on Sunday.
The suspected gunman, 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche, was arrested Friday in the southern French city of Marseille in possession of a Kalashnikov rifle and a handgun similar to the ones used in the attack on May 24, the sources said.
Nemmouche has been detained on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise, a judicial source said.
The office of the Belgian federal prosecutor confirmed a suspect was being held.
“I can confirm the arrest of the suspect,” a spokeswoman told AFP. Simultaneous press conferences will take place in Brussels and Paris at 3:00 p.m. (1300 GMT).
The shooting by a lone gunman killed three people outright — an Israeli couple and a Frenchwoman, while the fourth victim, a 24-year-old Belgian man, was left clinically dead.
Authorities had released chilling security camera footage of the gunman, wearing a cap and sunglasses, walking into the museum, removing an automatic rifle from a bag and shooting through a door before making an exit.
Belgian media reported that the assailant used a camera to film his attack in the same way as Mohammed Merah, the Frenchman who shot dead several Jews in Toulouse two years ago.
Customs officials detained Nemmouche at Marseille's coach station on board a bus arriving from Amsterdam via Brussels.
According to sources close to the investigation, he was carrying a Kalashnikov automatic rifle and a gun with ammunition in his luggage, as well as a miniature video camera.
“These weapons were of the type used in Brussels,” said one source.
The European Jewish Congress immediately drew a parallel between the events in Brussels and the shootings by Merah and called for greater security at Jewish institutions and tougher legislation for dealing with anti-Semitic crime.
Originally from Roubaix in northern France, Nemmouche is believed to have traveled to join Islamist fighters in Syria in 2013, and was known to the French domestic intelligence agency DGSI, the source said.
He is being questioned by the DGSI who can hold him for up to 96 hours, until Tuesday, or 144 hours, to Thursday, if investigators invoke an imminent terrorist threat.
Sources close to the investigation told AFP that during the first 24 hours of interrogation, Nemmouche remained silent.
President Francois Hollande said Sunday that the suspect was “arrested as soon as he set foot in France.”