PARIS — A suspected French jihadist who spent time in Syria is in custody over the shooting deaths of three people at a Jewish museum in Belgium, prosecutors said Sunday, raising fears that European radicals will parlay their experiences in Syria into terrorism back home.
When Mehdi Nemmouche was arrested in southern France on Friday, he was in possession of firearms, a large quantity of ammunition, and a video claiming responsibility for the May 24 attack, a Belgian prosecutor said.
In a one-minute rampage, a gunman opened fire at the Brussels museum. In addition to the fatalities, another person was seriously wounded.
Authorities raised terrorism alert levels as they searched for the attacker. But it was ultimately a customs inspection in the French port city of Marseille that turned up Nemmouche as he disembarked from a bus that had arrived from Amsterdam, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.
The suspect had a revolver and a retractable automatic weapon like those used in the Brussels attack; ballistics analyses were underway to determine if they were used in the attack, Molins said.
Nemmouche, 29, from northern France, had a criminal record, with seven convictions for crimes such as attempted robbery but nothing related to terrorism, Molins said.
He said the suspect became radicalized in prison and left for Syria three weeks after his last prison stay in late 2012, going to Syria via Brussels, London, and Istanbul. He said the suspect spent about a year in Syria, though it is unclear why he went and what he did there.