Mehdi Nemmouche

French-born Mehdi Nemmouche is a former ISIS fighter responsible for murdering four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24, 2014. The attack was reportedly the first in Europe by a returned foreign fighter from Syria.Agence France-Presse, “Frenchman convicted over deadly attack at Brussels Jewish museum,” Times of Israel, March 7, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog-march-7-2019/. Prior to the attack, Nemmouche spent a year fighting alongside ISIS in Syria and guarding the group’s U.S. and European hostages in Aleppo. Among these hostages were U.S. citizens James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both of whom were beheaded by the militants in late 2014.“Brussels Jewish Museum killings: Suspect ‘admitted attack’,” BBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27654505;
“Mehdi Nemmouche, Brussels Jewish Museum shooting suspect, arrested,” CBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/mehdi-nemmouche-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting-suspect-arrested-1.2661011;
Christopher Dickey, “French Jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche Is the Shape of Terror to Come,” Daily Beast, September 9, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/09/the-face-of-isis-terror-to-come.html.
On March 7, 2019, a Belgian court convicted Nemmouche on murder charges in relation to the museum shooting. He received a life sentence.“Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche guilty,” BBC News, March 7, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47490332; “Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche jailed for life,” BBC News, March 12, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47533533.

Born to a single mother in Roubaix, France, Nemmouche was raised primarily by his grandmother before being placed in a family home. Between the ages of 13 and 22, Nemmouche accumulated 22 criminal offenses, including vehicle theft, assaults, and armed robbery. During this period, Nemmouche completed schooling at a technical institute, but failed to pass his professional licensing test to become a licensed electrician.“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html.

In 2007, at 22 years old, Nemmouche was convicted of robbery. He was later convicted for aggravated theft 2008 and 2009, while already in custody. While serving a five-year prison sentence, Nemmouche allegedly associated with Islamist inmates and began to adopt a radical interpretation of Islam. In 2011, while still imprisoned, Nemmouche attacked a prison supervisor, for which he was prosecuted. Nemmouche was ultimately released from prison on December 4, 2012.“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html;
“Brussels Jewish Museum killings: Suspect ‘admitted attack’,” BBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27654505.

Later that month, Nemmouche left France to join ISIS abroad, traveling through Brussels, London, and Istanbul before entering into Syria.“Mehdi Nemmouche, Brussels Jewish Museum shooting suspect, arrested,” CBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/mehdi-nemmouche-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting-suspect-arrested-1.2661011;
“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html.
Upon joining ISIS, Nemmouche was assigned to guard an ISIS detention facility in Aleppo holding European hostages including French journalists Didier François, Nicolas Hénin, Eduard Elias, and Pierre Torres.“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html. Nemmouche also allegedly guarded hostages James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were executed by the militant group in mid-2014.Christopher Dickey, “French Jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche Is the Shape of Terror to Come,” Daily Beast, September 9, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/09/the-face-of-isis-terror-to-come.html.

According to former ISIS hostage Nicolas Hénin, Nemmouche would regularly beat and torture prisoners. Hénin said that Nemmouche had once bragged about raping a woman before cutting her throat and beheading her baby.Christopher Dickey, “French Jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche Is the Shape of Terror to Come,” Daily Beast, September 9, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/09/the-face-of-isis-terror-to-come.html. “It’s such a pleasure to cut off a baby’s head,” Hénin quoted Nemmouche as saying.David Chazan, “Brussels museum shooting suspect ‘beheaded baby’,” Telegram (London), September 7, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11080079/Brussels-museum-shooting-suspect-beheaded-baby.html. According to several former ISIS hostages, Nemmouche was nicknamed “Abu Omar the Hitter” because of the way in which he would violently beat prisoners.“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html;
Christopher Dickey, “French Jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche Is the Shape of Terror to Come,” Daily Beast, September 9, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/09/the-face-of-isis-terror-to-come.html.
Hénin said that Nemmouche also boasted to ISIS hostages about his intention to carry out a terrorist attack during Paris’s July 14 Bastille Day parade.Christopher Dickey, “French Jihadi Mehdi Nemmouche Is the Shape of Terror to Come,” Daily Beast, September 9, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/09/the-face-of-isis-terror-to-come.html.

Nemmouche returned from Syria to France in March 2014 and traveled to Brussels several weeks later. On May 24, 2014, Nemmouche stormed into the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, killing four people.“Mehdi Nemmouche: ce que l’on sait de son parcours,” Le Monde (Paris), August 9, 2014, http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2014/09/08/mehdi-nemmouche-ce-que-l-on-sait-de-son-parcours_4483458_3224.html. Nemmouche immediately fled the scene and later boarded a bus from Amsterdam heading to France’s southern port city of Marseille. On May 30, 2014, French authorities conducting customs inspections found and detained Nemmouche at the Saint-Charles transit station in Marseille. Authorities confiscated a video recording of Nemmouche claiming responsibility for the Jewish Museum attack. Authorities also seized the two guns used in the museum attack and a white sheet decorated with ISIS’s symbol.“Mehdi Nemmouche, Brussels Jewish Museum shooting suspect, arrested,” CBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/mehdi-nemmouche-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting-suspect-arrested-1.2661011;
“Brussels Jewish Museum killings: Suspect ‘admitted attack’,” BBC News, June 1, 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27654505.

On July 30, 2014, Nemmouche was charged with murder in a terrorist context by Belgian courts.Frances Robinson, “French Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum Killings Charged,” Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2014, https://www.wsj.com/articles/french-suspect-in-brussels-jewish-museum-killings-charged-1406725425. On November 3, 2016, Belgium prosecutors decided that Nemmouche would be extradited to France once Belgium “no longer needs him” to face additional charges there.“Suspect in Brussels Jewish museum shooting faces extradition to France,” France24, November 3, 2016, http://www.france24.com/en/20161103-belgium-extradition-france-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting-nemmouche. French authorities are investigating Nemmouche’s participation in the ISIS kidnapping of the four French journalists held hostage in Syria in 2014.“Suspect in Brussels Jewish museum shooting faces extradition to France,” France24, November 3, 2016, http://www.france24.com/en/20161103-belgium-extradition-france-brussels-jewish-museum-shooting-nemmouche.

Nemmouche went on trial in Brussels on January 10, 2019.“Brussels Nemmouche trial: Suspect claims he was ‘tricked,’” BBC News, March 5, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47454870. During the trial, Hénin testified that he had no doubt Nemmouche was one of his guards and described Nemmouche as “sadistic, playful and narcissistic.”“Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche guilty,” BBC News, March 7, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47490332. Nemmouche’s attorney protested that his client was on trial only for the museum shooting. In regard to the museum attack, Nemmouche’s attorney alleged that Iranian or Lebanese intelligence had recruited Nemmouche to join ISIS and that he was acting in his capacity as a double agent while he was guarding the French journalists. Nemmouche’s lawyer argued further that the Brussels attack was actually a “targeted execution of Mossad agents” carried out by an unknown person. The court found no links to the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency.“Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche guilty,” BBC News, March 7, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47490332.

On March 7, 2019, a Belgian court convicted Nemmouche for the murder of four people during the museum attack. The court also convicted Nacer Bendrer on a murder charge for helping Nemmouche plan the attack and providing the weapons. Nemmouche received a life sentence on March 12, 2019. Bendrer received a sentence of 15 years in prison. Nemmouche may also return to France to face kidnapping charges in regard to the four French journalists in Syria.“Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche guilty,” BBC News, March 7, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47490332; “Brussels Jewish Museum murders: Mehdi Nemmouche jailed for life,” BBC News, March 12, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47533533. On October 22, 2019, the Brussels criminal court ordered Nemmouche and Bendrer to pay a total of €985,000, without taxes, to the families of the four victims.“Jewish Museum terrorists ordered to pay nearly €1 million in victim compensation,” Brussels Times, October 22, 2019, https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/belgium-all-news/74818/jewish-museum-terrorists-ordered-to-pay-nearly-e1-million-in-victim-compensation-mehdi-nemmouche-nacer-bendrer-terrorist-attacks/.

 
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