(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS – The French Islamist terrorist who killed four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May and had tortured hostages in Syria for Islamic State was planning an attack during the July 14 parade on the Champs Élysées in Paris, reported French daily Libération.
“The jailer Mehdi Nemmouche boasted, in front of one of his victims, that he was preparing to commit a terrorist attack during the parade,” wrote Libération, whose front page read: “July 14, 2014, the attack that Paris escaped from.”
The French capital hosts a traditional military parade on Bastille Day, including aircraft and other military shows, ending in Place de la Concorde in front of the president, the army chief of staff, top officers and other officials – as well as members of the government and foreign diplomats.
The report could not confirm if they were among Nemmouche’s alleged targets.
Libération asked whether Islamic State sent Nemmouche back from Syria to strike at Europe or whether it was on his own initiative. It added that the man “planned at least one attack in France, in the heart of Paris.”
The newspaper received the information according to reports from four French journalists freed from Syria on April 20, who gave information on the conditions of their detention to the Direction Generale de la Securite Interieure (General Directorate of Homeland Security) and then transferred to the anti-terrorist section of Paris’s public prosecutor’s office.
Le Monde published that the hostages identified Nemmouche as a torturer, whose victims included American journalist James Foley and Israeli-American journalist Steven Sotloff, both beheaded by Islamic State terrorists.
Nemmouche, 29, from Roubaix near Lille in northern France, was arrested six days after he committed the May 24 terrorist attack in Brussels.
He shot to death a tourist couple from Tel Aviv, as well as two others, a French woman and a Belgian museum worker. He was arrested in Marseille and extradited to Belgium, after he received assurances he would not be transferred to a third country (Israel).
He is set to appear before a Brussels court on Friday.
He was allegedly among the captors of the four French journalists taken hostage in June 2013 and freed after 10 months in detention: Didier Francois, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres.
According to reports, they cannot agree on whether to testify or not against Nemmouche.
“Their memories are not uniform... for some there is a possibility of his [Nemmouche’s] involvement, others are more sure about it,” Le Monde reported. The paper said the testimony given to French intelligence was suspicious.
“There are different... opinions [toward the identity of the torturer].”
Since their return from incarceration, the secret services have regularly consulted the hostages about their ordeal.
“I wish to... preserve the security of the people still in the hands of Islamic State,” said Francois, who, according to websites, is opposed to identifying Nemmouche for the safety of those who are still there.
An NGO source close to the story told Le Monde, “They [the four] have the right to demand justice, since Mehdi Nemmouche was there.”
According to Liberation, the secret services are following a line of inquiry that Nemmouche had a contact in Marseille where he could lie low and from which he was planning a first strike in southern France, before the proposed Paris atrocity.
The Paris prosecutor denied the Libération reports. The newspaper stuck to its story, insisting on its website; “we stand by our revelations...
Nemmouche’s boasts were made in front of one of his hostages during their captivity in an abandoned hospital in Aleppo, Syria.”
It also claimed that Nemmouche had a fascination for Muhammad Merah (the terrorist gunman who first attacked French soldiers in Montauban and then murdered four people, including three children at a Jewish day school in Toulouse), whom he considers an “absolute hero.”