• France edition
 
Jewish museum killings: 'He hid his intentions'
Who is the suspect in the Brussels Jewish Museum massacre? Photo: AFP

Jewish museum killings: 'He hid his intentions'

Published: 02 Jun 2014 13:32 GMT+02:00
Updated: 02 Jun 2014 13:32 GMT+02:00

Born in one of the poorest towns in France, Brussels shooting suspect Mehdi Nemmouche was abandoned by his mother, shunted from one foster home to another and slowly evolved from a petty criminal to a hardened jihadist.

The 29-year-old repeat offender was described by one of his aunts as a quiet, harmless person who managed to attend university for a year but snapped ties with the family after his latest stint in prison.

Caught during a random check by customs officials on Friday in Marseille in a bus coming from Amsterdam via Brussels, Nemmouche apparently claimed responsibility for the May 24 attack in Brussels' Jewish museum which killed three people outright and left another man in a critical state.

The claim was made in a video found on him and showing the arms he used during the attack.

Born in Roubaix in northern France, Nemmouche never knew his father and was abandoned by his mother when he was three months old.

He grew up in care and foster homes until his grandmother took him in when he was 17. Nemmouche's first brush with the law occurred when he was 19 when he was caught driving without a valid licence.

Thereafter came a succession of petty thefts and robberies. He was convicted seven times and jailed five times.

"He is nice, intelligent, educated and has done a year at university," Nemmouche's aunt said, adding that the family was "very shocked".

Lawyer Soulifa Badaoui, who first defended Nemmouche in 2009, described her former client as "the last person" who could have staged the attack.

Nemmouche's aunt said he was taciturn. "He is someone who kept things bottled up inside him, one could never tell what he was thinking."

'An enormous waste' 

It was during Nemmouche's last stint in prison, between 2007 and 2012, that he became radicalised, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.

Nemmouche's family, who live in a rough neighbourhood in the northern town of Tourcoing near Roubaix, said he gradually snapped ties with them during his incarceration.

"It is him who didn't want to give us his news because he did not want to cause us any problems," a relative said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

His aunt said Nemmouche paid a brief visit after he was released from jail towards the end of 2012.

"He seemed normal as always and in good health," she said. "We never saw him again."

According to French authorities Nemmouche left for Syria on December 31, 2012 -- just three weeks after his release from prison.

He is believed to have stayed there for more than a year, fighting with jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Syria's most extremist group.

He returned to Europe in March this year after spending time in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. But security officials lost track of him after he landed in Germany.

Badaoui said she felt the system had failed her client.

"I have the feeling of an enormous waste. We did not succeed in making an intelligent young man with a lively spirit into the average French citizen," she said.

The fact that the area he grew up in is marked by "high unemployment with many youths becoming desperate and not finding solutions to their problems" did not help, she added.

In 1995, 10 men from Nemmouche's home town, nine of whom had fought alongside Islamist fighters in Bosnia, formed the infamous Roubaix gang, which staged robberies and tried to set off a car bomb in front of Lille's police headquarters in 1996.

Don't miss stories about France, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Abbas to meet Hollande in Paris Friday

Abbas to meet Hollande in Paris Friday

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will meet his French counterpart Francois Hollande in Paris on Friday, ahead of a key address to the United Nations, his spokesman said. READ  

Under-fire Hollande faces crunch confidence vote
Photo: AFP

Under-fire Hollande faces crunch confidence vote

The deeply unpopular government of embattled French President Francois Hollande faces a parliamentary confidence vote on Tuesday, with the country gripped by a crippling political and economic crisis. READ  

'Whiplash' wins top prize at Deauville film fest

'Whiplash' wins top prize at Deauville film fest

France's Deauville Film Festival on Saturday awarded its grand prize to director Damien Chazelle's "Whiplash" which had also taken top honours at the Sundance festival earlier this year. READ  

France aided al-Shabaab leader killing
Photo: AFP

France aided al-Shabaab leader killing

French intelligence services assisted Washington in the operation that killed the commander of Somalia's al-Shabaab militant group earlier this month, local media reported Saturday. READ  

French minister 'first' in Africa Ebola zone
Photo: AFP

French minister 'first' in Africa Ebola zone

The French development secretary said Friday she was the first minister in a European government to visit any of west Africa's Ebola-hit nations as she prepared to fly to Guinea. READ  

Netflix: Movie service to make debut in France
Attention movie buffs: Netflix arrives in France on Monday. Photo: AFP

Netflix: Movie service to make debut in France

American video streaming service Netflix launches in France on Monday. Here's look at what the service and the impact it could have on France's 'cultural exception.' READ  

Air France pilots set for 'massive' strike
Air France pilots are strike to strike on Monday. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Air France pilots set for 'massive' strike

With negotiations sputtering, it’s looking increasingly likely that Air France pilots are going to carry out their threat of a “massive” walkout on Monday. Their unions have called for a week-long strike over re-organization plans. READ  

France's top expat tribes: Which are you?
Why not finish writing that novel while sipping on a coffee outside Shakespeare and Co? Photo: Cristine Zenino

France's top expat tribes: Which are you?

We all come to France for our own reasons, but The Local has identified some expat characters you’ll recognize. Here are the top ten types of expats in France. Which one are you? READ  

Beer brewing booms in wine-dominated France
France isn't just making wine these days. Photo: Pierre Andrieu/AFP

Beer brewing booms in wine-dominated France

With the number of craft breweries nearly doubling since 2010 in France, small-scale beer brewing is taking off in the land which is better known for its wine production. Turns out a good brew isn't so bad with foie gras. READ  

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS
The French president arrived in Iraq on Friday. Photo: AFP

France offers military help to Iraq against ISIS

During a state visit to Iraq on Friday France's president pledged additional military support to the country as it struggles to combat the ISIS extremists who seized large swathes of its territory. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
Scammers attack Paris's top cop at tourist hotspot
National
French leader didn't pay his rent for three years
National
'WW2 bomb' kills camper on French island
Does France have a racism problem?
National
National
'Enough gloom, France is an amazing country'
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Gallery
The top ten tourist traps to avoid in France
Politics
The juiciest bits from Trierweiler's tell-all book
Politics
Trierweiler tells all: 'Hollande wanted me back, at any price'
Education
'Sacre bleu!' Do the French really say that?
Politics
Manuel Valls has plenty in common with Tony Blair, but not background
International
Votes for expats: Plan to end UK's 15-year rule
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se