• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
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'

Joshua Melvin · 2 Jun 2014, 13:32

Published: 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.

Story continues below…

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.

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Christians and Muslims to mourn murdered French priest
A regional Muslim council has planned a "brotherhood march" in Lyon, while a church in Bordeaux said it would hold a non-denomination vigil for the 85-year-old priest. Photo: AFP

Muslim and Christian groups will hold vigils on Saturday for a French priest murdered by extremists in his church, as police charged a man in connection with the brutal attack that has plunged the nation into mourning again.

France church attackers 'smiled' and spoke of Koran
Three nuns were in the church when Father Jacques Hamel was killed. Photo: AFP

One of the jihadists who murdered an elderly French priest smiled as he carried out the attack, and nuns who witnessed the grisly murder said the killers spoke about the Koran.

Air France strike grounds 20% of flights

Air France on Saturday cancelled around 20 percent of its flights on the fourth day of a strike by flight attendants during the peak summer travel season, the airline said.

Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Photo: Gomezdegomera/Flickr

How many have you been to?

France braces for busiest day of traffic all summer
Photo: AFP

Thinking of driving this weekend? The French are being advised to think twice.

Opinion
'France has problems but it's not on brink of civil war'
A French police officer stands in front of a Muslim prayer room after it was destroyed by a fire, suspected to be arson, in Ajaccio.. Photo: AFP

While certain French politicians and security chiefs have openly talked of the nightmare prospect of civil war in France, one expert tells The Local the country is too resolute to go down that path.

Ten hidden gems in France you should visit this summer
Photo: Erik Harström/Flickr

Looking for holiday ideas this summer?

What's on: Ten cool things to do in France in August 2016
Photo: AFP

August is almost here - and we've got you covered for events.

Paris in August: Should you stay or should you go now?
Photo: AFP

When it comes to August in Paris, you're either a stayer or a goer. But which is the best choice?

French PM: 'France needs new relationship with Islam'
Photo: AFP

As France struggles to get to grips with an increasing number of terror attacks the French PM says the country needs a new relationship with Islam.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Travel
Summer in France: The top ten beaches
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
France: A timeline of terror since the Charlie Hebdo attack
A timeline of terror in France since Charlie Hebdo
Culture
Thirteen free and easy ways to learn French
Culture
32 mistakes foreigners make when they arrive in France
National
Here are the worst scams to avoid whilst driving in France
Analysis & Opinion
Isis can simply be a conduit for the violent desires of psychopaths
Features
Six outdoor bars in Paris you simply must visit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Culture
The open-air Villette cinema has been cancelled over security fears
Culture
Henri Rousseau exhibition proves huge hit in Paris
National
Frenchman caught trying to sell Nice massacre souvenirs online
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Society
OPEN NOW: Here's why you should head to the Paris Plages
Culture
What's on in France: Still plenty to see and do in July
Lifestyle
Treasures of Versailles to go on display in Australia
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
National
Nice attack: What we know so far
National
Nice attacker: Body-building, drug-taking, violent flirt
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
IN IMAGES: Drawings in tribute to Nice attack victims
Society
Promenade des Anglais: The iconic heart of the French Riviera
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
France faces more questions after latest deadly attack
National
Why is France the target of choice for jihadist attacks?
National
Nice truck attack: 'Bodies went flying like bowling pins'
Nice attack: Families of missing make pleas on Twitter
2,755
jobs available