Brussels shooter ‘planned Bastille Day atrocity’ in Paris
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Mehdi Nemmouche, the French-Algerian accused of killing four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, planned a major attack at France’s Bastille Day celebration, French daily Libération said Monday. The interior ministry has denied the reports.
Nemmouche made more headlines recently following reports that two former hostages, Nicolas Hénin and Didier François, had identified Nemmouche as one of their captors when they were being held by jihadists in Syria.
The pair were among four French journalists, along with Pierre Torrès and Edouard Elias, who were taken hostage by Islamic State militants in June 2013. They were released on April 20 this year.
Libération, allegedly citing evidence the former hostages gave to police, said Monday that Nemmouche, 29, had revealed while in Syria that he was planning a terrorist attack in France.
However, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve went on record at midday to say the story was “untrue”. The Paris prosecutor issued a statement on Monday saying that no information on a planned Paris attack had yet featured in the charges against Nemmouche.
But Libération stuck resolutely to its claims, insisting that the freed hostages, in an April 20 briefing with the French intelligence services, warned that their former captor – then unnamed – had threatened to attack Paris on Bastille Day on July 14.
Toulous shooter a 'model'
The newspaper said it told officials that Nemmouche planned to commit “five times what Merah had done” during the Bastille Day parade in Paris, a reference to Mohammed Merah, who launched a series of attacks against Jewish and French military targets in the southern French city of Toulouse in 2012.
François told Europe 1 radio on Monday: “Throughout our detention there was an anti-Semitic obsession [from Nemmouche], he wanted to replicate or outdo Merah, who was a sort of model for him.”
The former hostage also said that Nemmouche described himself as “a young criminal who had been transformed into an ethnic cleanser”.
Nemmouche was arrested as he got off a bus from Brussels to Marseille on May 30.
He was found carrying an AK-47 assault rifle with 261 rounds of ammunition, a handgun with 57 bullets and a banner inscribed with words dedicated to the Islamic State organisation.
The attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels left an Israeli couple, a Frenchwoman and a Belgian man dead, and underscored fears of terrorist attacks launched by European jihadists returning from Syria.
French authorities say that some 900 French nationals are believed to be fighting alongside jihadists in Syria. Several dozen have been reported killed.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)