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French jihadi convicted of deadly Brussels Jewish museum attack

Benooit Peyrucq / AFP | A court sketch made on January 10, 2019 shows Mehdi Nemmouche during his trial at the Brussels Justice Palace.

A Belgian court on Thursday convicted French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche of "terrorist murder" for the shooting deaths of four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels in 2014, in the first case of an attack by Syria-returned jihadi in Europe.

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The 12 jurors also found Nacer Bendrer, accused of supplying him with the weapons, to be the "co-author" of the May 2014 anti-Semitic killings, the judge said following a two-month trial in Brussels.

Sentencing in the weeks-long jury trial will be announced at a later date.

The shooting attack by Nemmouche in May 2014 was the first to underscore the threat posed by Islamist militants returning to their home countries in Europe after fighting in Syria's war.

Defence lawyers argued that Nemmouche's cold-blooded slaughter of four victims in less than 90 seconds was because he was "tricked" and caught up in some kind of plot targeting the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

The argument involves Israeli couple Miriam and Emmanuel Riva, the first two of the four people killed in the attack.

A young Belgian employee, Alexandre Strens, and French volunteer Dominique Sabrier were also murdered.

Supplying a Kalashnikov

Six days after the attack, Nemmouche was arrested in the French city of Marseille in possession of a revolver and a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle.

At the trial, Bendrer admitted that the Nemmouche had asked him for a Kalashnikov when he came to Brussels in early April, but claimed he never delivered it.

Among other personal effects found upon his was a nylon jacket with gunshot residue, as well as a computer in which investigators found six videos claiming the attack with an off-camera voiceover thought to be Nemmouche.

The Brussels killings came 18 months before the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks which left 130 dead.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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