Mehdi Nemmouche, the terrorist behind the deadly shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May, planned to launch a terror attack along the Champs Elysees, the Fifth Avenue of Paris, on France’s biggest national holiday, Buzzfeed reported on Sunday, citing the French newspaper Libération.
According to the report Nemmouche, who has been extradited to Belgium and held for questioning, had his sights trained on Paris, on Bastille Day, which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789.
French police believed his group to be capable of “Merah to the power of five”, i.e. five times the killing that was seen when Mohamed Merah, 23, reportedly shot seven people in three separate attacks in 2012 in Toulouse, including the attack on the Otzar HaTorah Jewish school.
A source told Libération that Nemmouche had transited through France undetected. French officials said there was no record of his presence in France until May 30, when he was arrested traveling by bus to Marseilles.
By chance, his bus was stopped by customs officials looking for drugs or other contraband, according to Buzzfeed. When they searched Nemmouche’s luggage, they found a Kalashnikov similar to the one used in the Brussels shooting and a .38 revolver with 57 bullets.
He also was carrying a white cloth or flag stamped with the words “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” also known as ISIS or IS, which took over Mosul, in northern Iraq, in June and in the last three weeks has beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
French customs authorities also found in Nemmouche’s luggage a videotape showing the weapons French officials impounded. On the videotape, Nemmouche is heard detailing the killings at the Jewish Museum and lamenting that his GoPro camera was not working to document them.
Reporter Nicolas Henin told French magazine Le Point over the weekend that he was tortured by Nemmouche, while being held with American journalists Foley and Sotloff. Henin and the other French journalists were released in April, after being held since the previous June.