Liege attack shrouded in mystery

 

The Belgian city of Liege was left asking itself "why?" today in the wake of the random Christmas market gun and grenade attack that left three dead.

There were no immediate answers to why Nordine Amrani, a 33-year-old criminal, swept into a Christmas market to unleash a rampage that also wounded 123 others, then killed himself.

Deepening the mystery, police announced that the body of a cleaning lady had been found in a shed where Amrani grew cannabis close to his home.

Liege Prosecutor Daniele Reynders said, after searches of Amrani's house, terrorism could be excluded.

"It was a cleaning lady. This is how she met him yesterday morning," she said. "She dies, shot with a bullet in the head."

The Ferris Wheel at Liege's Christmas market started turning again today, hoping to restore some festive cheer, but the mood remained sombre.

"The crowds won't show up," said Francoise Robert, selling miniature castles and Christmas items. "People are scared."

At the outdoor bus depot that Amrani attacked, a long parade of people bundled against the wind and rain paid tribute to the victims. Young women cried and families lit candles as shards of unswept glass still littered the pavement.

"Warum (why)?" asked one card, surrounded by toys, flowers and candles. The victims included an 18-month old girl and two teenage boys, both students. Five others are reported in critical condition.

Adelie Miguel, a 48-year-old resident of Spanish descent, placed a bouquet of white tulips against the shattered bus stop.

"We are all Liegeois, united in suffering," she said. "This was an act of a sick man."

Beyond the dead and injured, Ms Reynders said 40 other people had to be treated for psychological trauma.

In the capital, Brussels, the government pledged to toughen the gun law and put stricter controls on multiple offenders on conditional release. Amrani, who had done jail time for offences involving guns and drugs, had been called in for questioning on Tuesday by police in a sexual abuse case.

Amrani's lawyer said his client had been particularly scared over the last few days that he would be jailed again. It is unclear, however, if this was the tipping point.

"He was extremely nervous," Jeann-Francois Dister said. "He was impulsive but what he did was unbelievable."

Even though he still had more grenades and more rounds of ammunition with him, Amrani turned a gun on himself and shot himself in the face.

Officials said he left his Liege home with a backpack, armed with hand grenades, a revolver and an assault rifle. He walked alone onto a busy central square, then got onto a platform that gave him an ideal view of the area, bedecked with a Christmas tree and crowded with shoppers.

From there, he lobbed three hand grenades toward nearby bus shelters, explosions that scattered glass across a wide area. He then opened fire on the crowd, prompting a stampede as hundreds fled in panic. Some ran grasping the hands of young children who had come to see the Christmas market.

In Liege, a melting pot of immigrant communities whose members worked the blast furnaces and coal mines here for decades, some people feared a backlash: Amrani had a foreign heritage, even if he was Belgian-born. In Belgium, racial stereotypes tend to surface quickly when crime is involved.

Cedric Christiaens, a 20-year-old language student living close to the square, said the outrage will only grow when more people realise that Amrani was able to walk the streets on conditional release despite previous jail time and convictions for illegal gun possession and drugs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore