Witnesses to be confirmed as trial about to start for 2014 attack on Brussels Jewish Museum

Witnesses are to be confirmed for the Brussels trial of a Frenchman accused of shooting four people dead at the Brussels Jewish Museum in 2014 after his return from Syria’s battlefields.

Mehdi Nemmouche, who allegedly became the first jihadist from Syria to stage a terror attack on European soil, will be tried next month along with co-defendant Nacer Bendrer.

It was not clear whether Nemmouche and Bendrer, who is also French, would appear at the hearing which court sources say is designed to finalise a list of 150 to 200 witnesses. After their selection, the witnesses will start testifying in January when the trial gets fully underway.

Nemmouche and Bendrer face charges of “terrorist murder” over the shooting on May 24, 2014 at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in the capital Brussels.

Nemmouche, 33, walked into the Museum on May 24 2014 armed with a Kalashnikov rifle and opened fire, killing an Israeli couple, a local employee of the Museum and a French citizen.

He was arrested six days later in the southern French port city of Marseille alighting from a bus from Brussels.

Nemmouche had returned from Syria where he had been fighting with Islamist extremists, investigators allege.

Investigators said Nemmouche was in Syria from 2013 to 2014 where he met Najim Laachraoui, one of the men who carried out suicide bombings in Brussels on March 22, 2016, killing 32 people and wounding hundreds more.

The same Brussels cell is also alleged to have carried out the gun and bombing attacks on November 13, 2015 in Paris that killed 130 people and wounded hundreds.

The Islamic State group, which drew thousands of jihadists from Europe to parts of Syria and Iraq under its control, claimed responsibility for both the Paris and the Brussels attacks.

Watching the trial closely will be the Coordination Committee of Jewish Organisations in Belgium – the country’s EJC affiliate – which has underscored the antisemitic character of this attack.

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