• France's news in English
 
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

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
Eight jailed in €100m euro Paris jewellery heist
Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Eight jailed in €100m euro Paris jewellery heist

A French court has sentenced eight men to jail over a double heist at a Harry Winston jewellery shop in Paris in which they made off with gems and watches worth more than €100 million ($114 million). READ  

Hollande condemns Boris Nemtsov killing
Photo: Dmitry Sereryakov/AFP

Hollande condemns Boris Nemtsov killing

French President Francois Hollande on Saturday condemned the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, calling him a "defender of democracy". READ  

American WWII vets awarded top French honour
Photo: Diego Urdaneta/AFP

American WWII vets awarded top French honour

Five American World War II veterans received France's highest honor Friday during a moving ceremony aboard a French naval vessel moored in Florida. READ  

UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute
The commute is around 250 kilometres. Photo: Google Maps

UK councillor blasted for 250km French commute

A councillor from the UK has come under fire in the UK for her long distance commute - from France. Opponents have called for her resignation. READ  

French management style slated by foreigners
French management style has been blasted by foreigners, although they do appreciate the lunch breaks. Management photo: Shutterstock.

French management style slated by foreigners

A massive survey of foreigners working in France has revealed that the French management style is far from being an international role model - but the extended lunch breaks, at least, were a redeeming feature. We take a closer look at the findings. READ  

French set for U-turn on EU-US trade agreement
The EU-US free trade agreement is the cause of much angst in France. Photo: AFP

French set for U-turn on EU-US trade agreement

The proposed free trade zone between the EU and the US is at the centre of a political struggle in France, with the government looking set to make a U-turn over its stance towards one of the most controversial elements of the agreement. READ  

Louvre condemns Iraq jihadist statue-smashing
Islamic State militants gleefully smash ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Iraq's second city of Mosul. Photo: AFP

Louvre condemns Iraq jihadist statue-smashing

Paris's famed Louvre museum on Friday reacted in shock to the destruction of priceless artefacts by jihadists in Iraq, saying they hit at the heart of "humanity's memory." READ  

French cartoon festival canned over terror fears
The Caen Memorial where the international press cartoon festival was due to take place. Photo: AFP

French cartoon festival canned over terror fears

UPDATED: In what represents a blow to freedom of speech, France's international press cartoon festival has been cancelled, because organisers fear it could be targeted by terrorists. Cartoonists have accused organisers of giving in to terror. READ  

The official guide on how to be cool in Paris
One of France's ultimate cool icons - Brigitte Bardot - sharing a hint on how to be cool. Photo: Laura Loveday/Flickr

The official guide on how to be cool in Paris

Speaking backwards, hanging out in hidden bars, and picking up a seriously unhealthy addiction. These are among the habits that young Parisians told The Local were the ultimate secrets to being cool in the City of Light. READ  

EU slaps tough budget targets on France
Photo: Sebastian Fuss/Flickr

EU slaps tough budget targets on France

UPDATED: The EU set France tough new targets on Friday to ensure it gets its budget deficit back within Brussels rules, after giving Paris an extra two years until 2017 to comply. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Here's how to be cool in Paris, according to Parisians
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best one to work in?
National
How can France enforce a no-drone zone over Paris?
National
Why do so many women in France smoke throughout their pregnancy?
National
VIDEO: Banned but beautiful - Paris seen through the eyes of a drone
Culture
What's on in France: Ten things to do in March
National
Would you want this Frenchman to squeal at YOUR wedding?
National
'We're back' - Charlie Hebdo magazine returns with a bite
Society
Handsome men on the Paris Metro are unknowingly going viral
Society
What are the little things that make France so different?
National
Should we be worried about drones being flown over Paris?
Travel
Another deadly avalanche in the French Alps
National
Text offences: Why French workers need to watch out in future
Gallery
Mont-Saint-Michel cut off as 'supertide' season opens in France
Gallery
Ten great moments for France throughout Oscar history
Culture
Anglo-French marriage problems begin long before anyone says 'Oui'
Travel
'The stars are aligned': Why now is the time to buy a house in France
National
IN PICTURES: 'Supertide' brings crowds to the French coast
Gallery
French property Face-off: Two luxury chalets in the French Alps
Travel
French coastal towns are braced for the 'tide of the century'
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
Politics
Socialist rebel MPs are angry but not ready to topple French government
Society
France to welcome another US fast food giant
Culture
Les Entrepreneurs: How to watch Paris theatre shows in English
Culture
So where are all these swinging sex clubs in Paris?
Sport
VIDEO: 'We're racist' - Chelsea fans push black man off Paris Metro
Culture
Sex clubs touted as latest fashion in Paris
Culture
In pictures: The ever-colourful Dunkirk carnival
National
Do you worry about your French accent? Perhaps you have no need to
National
VIDEO: 'Fear and loathing' - Being a Jew in Paris
National
Why the DSK trial could spell bad news for French prostitutes
Society
The sorry recent history of anti-Semitic attacks in France
National
'Je suis Danois' - Paris shows solidarity with Copenhagen
Culture
Obituary: Louis Jourdan - The actor who embodied French elegance
National
France outraged after hundreds of Jewish tombs vandalised
Culture
Romance in France: Sex, Champagne and Je t'aime
Culture
Fox News was right, there are no-go zones in Paris (for anyone single)
Culture
Fifty Shades of Grey OK for French 12-year-olds
Culture
French property face-off: Rustic cottage vs manor
Politics
New Muslim party aims for French election wins
Gallery
What do the French get superstitious about?
International
Paris starts lawsuit over Fox News's no-go zones
National
Gun ads see French cops compared to Dirty Harry
Travel
The world's most popular selfie spot has been revealed...
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
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