The suspected gunman in the May 24 attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Mehdi Nemmouche, reportedly spent about a year in Syria, where French and Belgian officials say he may have fought with the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS), a terrorist organization formerly associated with Al Qaeda.
The connection may substantiate fears that westerners fighting in Syria could return to attempt attacks in their home countries. Nemmouche’s choice to attack a Jewish museum may also further demonstrate the connection between terrorist ideology and anti-Semitism.
Nemmouche was arrested in France on Friday. At the time of his arrest, he was in possession of considerable ammunition, including a Kalashnikov rifle wrapped in a sheet with the ISIS symbol and the words “God is great.” He also had a video recorder on which he had apparently claimed credit for the attack and said he wanted to “kill Jews” and to “set fire to Brussels and fill it with blood.”
A native of France, Nenmouche is believed to have been radicalized in prison and to have left for Syria only three weeks after his release in 2012. French and Belgian officials claim there is evidence that he fought with ISIS while he was there.
The shooting in the museum resulted in 3 deaths and 1 person injured. It bears resemblance to a shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France in 2012 by Mohamed Merah. Merah, a French citizen, had spent time with extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan before returning to France and perpetrating the attack.
As many as 3,000 Europeans and 100 Americans are believed tohave travelled to join the conflict in Syria. This travel is only increasing as groups utilize social media and online propaganda to recruit followers.