Before Nordine Amrani killed himself and five others in a gun and grenade attack in the Belgian city of Liege on Tuesday, he killed a woman at his home.
Police found the body of a woman in the shed where Amrani grew marijuana. She had been shot in the head. Varying reports put her age between 40 and 65, but police believe they have identified her.
“It was a cleaning lady. This is how she met him yesterday morning,” Liege Prosecutor Daniele Reynders told The Associated Press.
“She dies, shot with a bullet in the head.”
After he killed the cleaning lady, the 33-year-old Amrani armed himself with a FAL assault rifle, a number of hand grenades and a revolver, likely the same one used on the woman, and walked to the central Place Saint Lambert. There, he positioned himself on an elevated walkway and began throwing grenades toward a bus shelter, sending glass flying in all directions, and firing his rifle.
Two teenaged students, one 17-years old, the other 15-years old, were killed in the attack. They had just finished exams and were walking in St Lambert Square when Amrani opened fire, killing them instantly. Later, a 75 year-old woman and a one-and-a-half year old baby died from their injuries.
Additionally, 124 people were wounded and are currently recovering in hospitals around the city.
Who is Nordine Amrani?
Amrani was a native Belgian of Moroccan decent. There are about 320,000 Moroccans currently living in Belgium, about half of them in the capital of Brussels, according to census data. While some have speculated that he could be linked to an extremist group, police and city officials are confident that Amrani was working alone and had no connections to terrorist groups.
“I totally rule that out,” Reynders said at a news conference on Wednesday. “There was nothing at all discovered during the inspections that could link the events of yesterday to any kind of terrorism.
While the attack in Belgium was first compared to the July 22 attack in Oslo, Norway, the two events are in sharp contrast to one another, although not in their inhumanity. The massacre carried out by Andres Behring Breivik was a right-wing terrorist act done in the name of European purism and xenophobia. He left a 1,500 page manifesto full of the rhetoric of extremism.
Amrani, a convicted felon, has left no such an explanation. He had been scheduled to be questioned by police on the day of the attack, but never made it to the station. Nonetheless, his origins, mixed with the utter and confounding confusion that results from such a tragedy, have raised doubts.
Because of his Moroccan origins, people are talking about killing the Muslims; it’s all the fault of the Muslims, and the new socialist government that’s been in office now for nearly a week is being blamed for being soft on immigrants and not reacting hard enough, Glyn Ford, a former Member of the European Parliament, told RT News.
They should take the right reactions and not overreact, as far as we can tell at the moment, there is no evidence [of a racial motive] from the assassin’s side. It should be treated as if you want to treat the individual gun crime rather than blaming a community.
While his motives are still unknown, Amrani's criminal past is known.
He was a felon who had been in trouble all his life: youth court, criminal court, courts of appeal, Liege chief prosecutor Cedric Visart de Bocarme told the BBC.
Amrani has been arrested a number of times for drugs and weapons charges, according to reports. The most significant conviction occurred in 2008, after police discovered his shed containing 9,500 gunparts and more than 2,000 marjiuana plants. They also found 10 complete firearms, including a LAW rocket launcher, a sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle and another FAL, according to Le Soir.
He was given a 58-month sentence, but was paroled in 2010. The terms of his probation did not prohibit him from owning guns, although his original stockpile was confiscated by police.
Tuesday, Dec. 13
On Tuesday, Amrani was scheduled to appear before police for questioning at 12:30 -- about the same time that the began the attack -- about an incident at a party. He had called his lawyer twice the day before his rampage and once the morning of, clearly distraught about the charges.
It seemed the new case was not particularly serious but Mr. Amrani thought he was being picked on, his lawyer Jean-Francois Dister told La Libre Belgique newspaper.
He explained to me that he had been questioned over an abduction. According to him, he had been framed and someone was out to get him. Mr. Amrani had a grievance against the law.
When the shooting began, thousands of people fled the square, while police quickly shut down the area and told people to stay inside stores. The attack didn't last long, and Amrani soon lay dead on the elevated platform, but police kept the square clear for hours, assuring that rumors that another gunman was still on the loose were false.
Until this morning, police were unsure how Amrani died, but Reynders confirmed that a self-inflicted gunshot to the head was the cause of death. Some witnesses said Tuesday that they saw the attacker pull out a pistol and shot himself, while others said that Amrani was killed by a grenade explosion.