Skip to main content

3 dead in shooting at Jewish Museum of Belgium

By Laura Smith-Spark, Elwyn Lopez and Pierre Meilhan, CNN
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Sat May 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Interior minister says terror alert level highest where Jewish community frequents
  • European Jewish Congress is "aware of the permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium"
  • Interior Minister Joelle Milquet says three people are dead, another seriously hurt
  • Milquet tells Belgian media that circumstances could suggest anti-Semitic attack

(CNN) -- Three people were killed and another was seriously injured in a shooting Saturday at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, Belgian officials said.

A person arrived by car at the museum in central Brussels, entered and quickly opened fire before leaving the scene, Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet told CNN affiliate Bel RTL.

The circumstances of the shooting have raised suspicions that it may have been an anti-Semitic attack, but no motive has been determined.

The shooter remains at large, and the nation's terror alert level was raised. Belgian public broadcaster RTBF quoted Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur as saying those killed were two men and a woman, while a man was seriously injured at the museum, which is near the tourist sites.

Two of the dead were Israelis -- a couple in their 50's from Tel Aviv, Israel's foreign ministry said Sunday.

At a press conference, Milquet said the threat level is highest at locations frequented by the Jewish community. This measure was precautionary, she added.

Police have arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman, in Marseille, France, in connection with the shooting deaths of three people on May 24 at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, according to Belgian authorities. Police have arrested Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman, in Marseille, France, in connection with the shooting deaths of three people on May 24 at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, according to Belgian authorities.
Shooting at Jewish Museum of Belgium
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
Photos: Shooting at Jewish Museum of Belgium Photos: Shooting at Jewish Museum of Belgium

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders, who was nearby when the shooting occurred, told CNN affiliate RTL/TVI that he saw the victims inside the museum, then called the emergency services and put witnesses in touch with police.

"It seems that a car was double-parked and that a person went in and came out of the museum quickly after shots were fired," Reynders said.

One witness managed to see the license plate of the vehicle used in the attack, according to Reynders.

"You can't help thinking, when you see a Jewish museum, to think about an anti-Semitic act, but the investigation will tell more," he said.

The person involved in the attack was carrying bags, and police were asked to look inside the museum to ensure that no devices were left behind, Reynders added.

Milquet told RTBF that the circumstances of the "haphazard" shooting "could give rise to presumptions of an anti-Semitic act."

But she added that the matter was still under investigation.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo expressed his shock and condolences via Twitter.

'We didn't expect such a terrible act'

The European Jewish Congress also decried the attack, the group's president, Moshe Kantor, said in a statement.

"While we don't not yet have full information regarding the background to this attack, we are acutely aware of the permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium and across the whole of Europe," he said.

"This is once again, much like the savage murders in Toulouse, a clear example of where hate and anti-Semitism leads. European governments must send out a clear message of zero tolerance towards any manifestation of anti-Semitism."

Henry Goodman, president of the Jewish Community Center in Brussels, also drew a parallel with the attacks by a gunman in Toulouse, France, two years ago in which a rabbi, three Jewish children and three French paratroopers were killed, saying it "must be the same logic."

He added, "They, whoever they are, are not going to close the community activities. Jewish people know what anti-Semitism means.

"They are not going to silence us. ... We are going to survive and fight."

Goodman told CNN he was "horrified" by what had happened Saturday.

"We didn't expect such a terrible act. Since we don't know who has done it or the reason, we can only imagine that it is an act of pure anti-Semitism," he said.

A crisis center has been opened by the Consistoire Central and the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organisations, and community leaders are in direct and permanent contact with police, local authorities and emergency services.

A global survey released in May by the Anti-Defamation League reported on the levels of anti-Semitism found in 102 nations.

Belgium received a 27% index score in the survey. The index score represents the percentage of adults in a country who answered "probably true" to a majority of the anti-Semitic stereotypes tested. Belgium has an adult population of about 8.7 million.

The ADL said one in four adults worldwide are "deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes," according to a CNN.com report on the survey.

France had an index score of 37%, Germany 27%, Spain 29%, Sweden 4% and the United Kingdom 8%. The United States was given an index score of 9%.

7 dead in California shooting rampage called 'premeditated mass murder'

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:04 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Obama's remarks that he didn't yet have a strategy for ISIS in Syria is widely criticized.
updated 8:17 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 3:46 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Beijing says only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive, prompting criticism that it stifles democracy.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
He should be toddling around a playground. Instead, his tiny hands grip an AK-47.
updated 12:52 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
CNN's Will Ripley travels to North Korea, visiting an international wrestling festival and a slide-filled water park.
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Our whole solar system appears to be inside a searing gas bubble, scientists say.
updated 8:23 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wilson Raj Perumal tells CNN how he rigged World Cup games: "I was giving orders to the coach."
updated 8:02 PM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
One journalist murdered, another still being held by ISIS -- a ransom negotiator talks to CNN about trying to get a hostage home alive.
updated 2:35 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
South Africa Music Legends stamps
Artist Hendrik Gericke puts a spotlight on iconic performers from South Africa in these incredible monochrome illustrations.
updated 5:46 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
We asked you what you would like to know about Ebola. Experts answer some of your most common questions and concerns.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT