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BRUSSELS

Jewish museum ‘shooter’ drops extradition appeal

A French-Algerian man suspected of carrying out a deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels has dropped an appeal against his extradition to Belgium, his lawyer said on Friday. The suspect is expected to be handed over to Belgian authorities in the coming weeks.

Jewish museum 'shooter' drops extradition appeal
A gunman opens fire at the Jewish museum in Brussels. Photo: AFP/Belgian Police

Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, had filed an appeal against the June ruling that ordered his extradition from France, but his lawyer Apolin Pepiezep said he had decided not to go ahead with the challenge as he now considered the court's decision "satisfactory".

Nemmouche, was arrested on May 30 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.

He was detained on suspicion of murder and attempted murder in connection with a terrorist enterprise after the shooting in Brussels on May 24th that left four people dead.

In June a court in Versailles ordered Nemmouche to be handed over to Belgian authorities in line with the European arrest warrant that had been issued following the murders.

The shooting carried out 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. Another source close to the investigation said that "many elements are consistent with the shooting in Brussels".

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 travelled to join Islamist fighters in Syria in 2013, and was known to the French domestic intelligence agency DGSI, the source said.

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ATTACK

Belgian police arrest 3 linked to foiled French terror plot

Three men have been arrested during an anti-terror operation in Brussels in connection with a foiled plot to attack France, Belgium's federal prosecutor said Friday.

Belgian police arrest 3 linked to foiled French terror plot
Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP file picture

“Police carried out two searches as part of a terrorism case linked to the arrest (near Paris) of Reda Kriket,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

French terror suspect Kriket was arrested in the outskirts of Paris on Thursday. 

Kriket is suspected of having been in the “advanced stage” of plotting an attack on France and has been described by authorities as “extremely dangerous”. 

After his arrest, police on Thursday conducted a raid on his home in the northern Parisian suburb of Argenteuil, finding ready-to-use explosives and several handguns.

In connection with Kriket's arrest, police on Friday carried out a massive anti-terror operation also in Schaerbeek and in Forest, both neighbourhoods in Brussels.

The prosecutor said two of the three men arrested during the raids had been injured in the leg.

Amateur video footage showed a man lying on the ground by a tram station holding a small backpack.

A total of 31 people were killed in the suicide bombings that struck Brussels airport and the city's Metro on Tuesday.

Connecting the dots between the Paris and Brussels attacks

Police in Belgium and Paris are still trying to connect the potential dots between the November 13 attacks in Paris – in which 130 people were killed – and those in Brussels. The picture is now getting somewhat clearer.

Kriket was on Friday linked to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks and who was killed by police five days after the carnage in the French capital.

Belgian police have also linked Salah Abdeslam – the only surviving jihadist directly involved in the Paris attacks and who was arrested in Belgium last week – to the Brussels suicide bomber brothers, Khalid and Ibrahim El Bakraoui.

On Friday, the Belgian federal prosecutor also confirmed that 24-year-old Najim Laachraoui – a bomb maker whose DNA was found on explosives used by the jihadists in Paris – had been among the three attackers who targeted the Brussels airport on Tuesday, saying he had died as one of the two suicide bombers who had struck there. 

The third airport attacker is still believed to be at large, however, after his bomb failed to detonate.

Following the latest raids and arrests in both Paris and Brussels, French President François Hollande on Friday declared that the jihadist network behind the deadly attacks in the two cities are “in the process of being destroyed”, but warned that other cells remain,

“We have had some results in finding the terrorists and, in Brussels as well as Paris, there have been a number of arrests and we know that there are other networks,” he said.

“Even if the one that committed the attacks in Paris and Brussels is in the process of being destroyed… there is still a heavy threat.”