Suspect in Jewish Museum killings detained in France

French police have arrested a suspect in the Jewish Museum shootings. Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman from the city of Roubaix in northern France, was apprehended in the southern port city of Marseille. He was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle gun and a revolver and "impressive amounts of ammunition". The man is believed to have contacts on Kortrijk. PM Elio Di Rupo said Belgium should "step up the fight against radical organisations".

The suspect had a Kalashnikov and another gun with him, French police said. He was in Syria to join jihadist groups last year, and became a radicalist, investigators claim. For this reason, French intelligence services had been monitoring him since he came back.

The man took the bus to get to Marseille. The bus came from Amsterdam and had a stop in Brussels. He was arrested last Friday in the bus station of Marseille-Saint Charles, but the news was only released this morning.

Upon his arrival in Marseille, local customs officers searched his bags and found a Kalashnikov and a revolver. These are exactly the weapons that were used during the attack on the Jewish Museum. Ballistic analyses were underway to determine if is was the same weapon.

The suspect was also carrying a hat that looked like the hat the attacker was wearing, and had a small camera with him. These were all extra clues investigators had been able to collect via CCTV footage.

Jan-Peter Boening-Agentur Zenit/laif

"This highlights the problem of returnees"

The suspect has a criminal record in France for robbery, but Belgian Intelligence services did not know him. The federal public prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw told a press conference on Sunday afternoon that the suspect probably had contacts in Kortrijk. A house search was carried out in this respect. It is possible that the suspect stayed there.

He added that the latest case highlights the problem of the so-called "returnees", people joining the combat in Syria and returning to Belgium afterwards. "This phenomenon monopolises almost the entire Belgium anti-terrorism unit", Van Leeuw said, "and demands a very large capacity within the Belgian law-enforcement agencies". He also thanked French investigators for the excellent cooperation with Belgian counter-terrorism units.

PM Elio Di Rupo said Belgium should "step up the fight against radical organisations", to avoid that dramatic attacks like the one in the Jewish Museum would have a repeat. He proposes better checks, more scope for investigators and tougher punishments.

Questions remain

The shooting in the Jewish Museum in the Miniemenstraat in Brussels took place last Friday, 24 May, and left 3 people dead. The brutal attack also left one young man in a life-threatening condition.

Belgium has already asked the French judicial authorities to extradite the man. The news of his arrest came as a relief to Jewish organisations, but they still fear there could be more attacks. "Investigations will have to show whether he acted as a "lone wolf" or whether he staged the attack on behalf of a larger network", Julien Klener told the VRT as Chairman of the Jewish community in Belgium.