82 seconds of terror at Brussels’ Jewish museum

Published January 7, 2019, 11:14 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Agence France-Presse

A shadow creeps behind two visitors just inside the Jewish museum in Brussels. A man emerges, arm extended as he fires a pistol into their necks.

The deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014 was widely seen as the first attack on European soil by a battle-hardened jihadist (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)
The deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014 was widely seen as the first attack on European soil by a battle-hardened jihadist (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The first bullet kills Emanuel Riva, the second, his wife Miriam, with the couple dropping to the floor in a ghoulish scene captured by the museum’s security cameras.

Neither Israeli tourist sees the shooter coming as they are engrossed in the museum’s prospectus.

They are the first of four people to die in the museum attack on May 24, 2014. Charged with those murders, Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche goes on trial in Brussels on Thursday.

Dressed in a blue jacket with a cap on his head, the shooter then walks resolutely up to the reception desk and accosts a young employee, firing a bullet into his forehead.

Alexandre Strens, 26, dies of his injuries two weeks later.

In a small room nearby a woman curls up in panic behind her desk. The gunman fires at her but misses so he takes an assault rifle out of one of the two bags he brought with him.

The door locks automatically before he opens fire and kicks it open. He walks toward her, fires three shots, two of them into her head.

Collapsing under her desk, Dominique Sabrier, a French volunteer in her sixties, becomes his fourth victim.

The gunman tucks away his weapon and leaves the museum without a word. Witnesses say he left the scene calmly before melting into the crowd on that spring Saturday afternoon.

Investigators say the four murders took only 82 seconds. The shooter fired a total of 13 shots, five from his handgun and eight from the Kalashnikov rifle.

In the following days, Belgian police send out an appeal for witnesses along with video images of the killer.

Guns on a bus

Six days later, on May 30, 2014, a Eurolines bus plying the Amsterdam-Brussels-Marseille route arrives around midday in the southern French port city.

Three border control officers decide to carry out an unannounced check.

On board are 15 passengers, including a clean-shaven Frenchman in a suit and tie. It is Mehdi Nemmouche, who informs the authorities he has travelled from the Belgian capital.

On an empty seat not far away from Nemmouche, who is 29 at the time, an officer spots a plastic bag and a black bag that no passenger claims.

Opening the heavy bag, he finds an assault rifle.

The three officers then search the passengers. When Nemmouche, the third to be searched, raises his hands, they find a loaded pistol in his jacket pocket.

Immediately handcuffed without resisting, he allegedly admits to owning the two bags as well as the pistol and assault rifle.

‘Fire and blood’

Investigators say both weapons were used at the museum.

The officers also seized from his bags 51 bullets for the pistol and 261 for the Kalashnikov as well as well as French-language newspapers with reports of the attack.

They also find a laptop containing footage in which a voice, believed to be his, claims responsibility for the murders.

“My jacket did indeed carry a camera… but unfortunately, to my great regret, the camera did not work that day,” it says before adding: “It is only the start of a series of attacks on the city of Brussels.

“We are firmly determined to put this city under fire and blood.”