Police in Marseille arrested a man whom Belgian police suspect killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium.
The man, aged 29 and identified as Mehdi Nemmouche, was arrested at Marseille’s main train and bus station, Saint-Charles, on May 29 and is currently being held on suspicion of terrorist activity, the news agency AFP reported. He lives in Roubaix, which is located on the border between France and Belgium, 55 miles south of Brussels. He arrived in Marseille aboard a bus that left from Amsterdam via Brussels. The report did not say where he boarded the bus.
The weapons found in the man’s luggage “were arms of the same type used on May 24 in Brussels,” an unnamed source told AFP.
A spokesperson for the Belgian federal police said the man is suspected of killing four people on May 24 at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in central Brussels.
Nemmouche also carried a small, portable video camera and a baseball cap similar to the one that is believed to have been worn by the perpetrator of the Brussels Jewish museum shooting, according to AFP.
Questioned by French police about the content of the digital camera after his arrest in Marseille, Nemmouche is reported to have said, “It’s a shame my camera didn’t work when all the action happened,” according to BFMTV, a Belgian broadcaster.
The Brussels Jewish museum shooter used what looked like an assault rifle to kill two tourists, Emanuel and Mira Riva, a man and his wife from Israel, and a handgun to kill two staffers, Alexandre Strens and Dominique Sabrier. He then fled the scene on foot. According to some reports, he wore a video camera.
French President Francois Hollande congratulated law enforcement officers for the capture.
“I wish to salute the customs officers, the police officers, for performing the arrest,” French media quoted Hollande as saying in a statement Sunday. “We are determined to follow those jihadists and prevent them from causing harm upon returning from a battle that is neither theirs nor ours. We have fought them, we are fighting them and we will fight them.”
“We are very satisfied with the work of the French authorities in finding the perpetrator of the cold-blooded murders last week,” European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said in a statement Sunday. “However, for too long authorities in Europe have acted speedily after the fact, it is now time for all to turn attention and set as the highest priority the prevention of these vicious crimes.”
The man arrested in Marseille, one of the sources told AFP, is believed to have participated in the civil war in Syria in 2013 as a jihadist.
He is being held on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, AFP reported.
Belgian police had briefly detained at least two men whom media reported had been interrogated about the shooting and released as part of a massive manhunt launched in Belgium.
According to TF1, a French television broadcaster, Nemmouche was stopped by customs officers performing routine checks. He declined to open his bag, leading the customs officers to evacuate the bus and check the contents of every bag aboard.
It was during that inspection that the customs officers found the weapons and the camera.
Nemmouche may have traveled to Marseille with the intention of boarding a boat to North Africa, TF1 reported.
Nemmouche became a radical jihadist while serving a sentence in France in 2009 for armed robbery, TF1 reported. He left France for Belgium in 2012 and from there traveled to Syria.
Nemmouche had spent a total of five years in prison from late 2007 to December of 2012, and had visited the United Kingdom; Lebanon; Turkey and Syria after his release. He returned to Europe in March 2014, BFMTV reported Sunday.