Yesterday, French custom officials in Marseille took the man suspected of killing three individuals in last week’s shooting at the Jewish Museum in Belgium into custody. The suspect, reported to be 29-year-old Mehdi Nemmouche from Roubaix, was arrested for possessing firearms, including an AK-47 and handgun. He also had a baseball cap, similar to the one worn at the time of the incident, and allegedly a flash drive with a video of him holding the AK-47 and claiming responsibility for the museum attack.
• There are conflicting reports as to whether Nemmouche was found due to intelligence information or as part of a regular customs check. If the latter is true, it reinforces the benefits of proper and thorough screening measures.
• Nemmouche is already being compared to Mohamed Merah, a French gunman with a criminal and radical background who murdered soldiers and Jewish civilians two years ago in Toulouse and Montauban before he was killed in a police siege who had a criminal background.
• Reportedly, Nemmouche did not dispose of his firearms after the attack, indicating he may have had intentions to utilize them again at a later point.
MSA's Research and Intelligence Analysis (RIA) Group has been monitoring this situation closely and has identified the following implications:
Although Nemmouche’s motive is still under investigation, there is a strong likelihood that last week’s attack may be one more example of the increasing threat to western targets from foreign fighters returning home from Syria. Authorities suspect Nemmouche went to Syria last year to join Islamist groups in the fight against President Bashar al-Assad. Prior to that trip, he apparently spent a couple of years in jail for armed robbery. Both parts of his background could be significant to his suspected radicalization.
Earlier this week, supposedly for the first time, an American citizen reportedly carried out a suicide bombing in Syria on behalf of the al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization, al-Nusra Front. Both the U.S. and Europe are facing heightened risk, and as a result, expected to increase their tracking and mitigation efforts. Additionally, security professionals should remain mindful of the evolving tradecraft being utilized in the Syrian conflict, as the Syrian front is providing a breeding and training opportunity for potential jihadists to conduct attacks that maximize casualties.
MSA Security's Research and Intelligence Analysis Group provides real-time intelligence on events and worldwide threats as they evolve.