Belgian killer a known criminal, but no record of instability

13th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Nordine Amrani, the lone gunman who died after killing three people and injuring scores in a crowded Belgian square Tuesday, had a long criminal record but not of mental instability.

The 33-year-old Amrani was well known to the police before he went on the rampage in the eastern Belgian city of Liege, opening fire on a square packed with children and Christmas shoppers, killing three people and wounding another 75.

He had previously been convicted for drug dealing and illegal arms possession, as well as for holding stolen goods and other crimes, said Daniele Reynders, the public prosecutor for Liege.

In September 2008 he was thrown behind bars for 58 months when police uncovered a weapons arsenal in his home.

They foung 10 firearms and 9,500 gun parts along with 2,800 cannabis plants, but a prison official said Amrani was granted early release last year.

A weapons afficionado, he was said to be able to dismantle, repair and put together all sorts of weapons but was never linked to any terrorist act or network.

However Reynders said there had never been the slightest hint that Amrani was unbalanced.

"At no moment in any of the judicial proceedings against him was there a sign of unbalance," she told a news conference.

Amrani had been summoned by police on Tuesday morning but never showed up.

Instead he left his Liege home in the morning with his backpack and arms, a light automatic rifle, a hand-gun and several grenades.

He headed for the city's central Saint-Lambert square, crammed with children and Christmas shoppers, and set up his gear on the roof of a popular bakery chain, Le Point Chaud.

With a bird's eye view of the square, he hurled three grenades into the crowd, the prosecutor said, before opening fire.

How exactly he died was not immediately clear, with some witnesses claiming he turned his revolver on himself while others said one of his grenades appeared to explode prematurely.

"The inquiry will determine whether he acted deliberately or whether the equipment he was carrying caused his death," Reynders said.

Tuesday shooting took place around noon on Liege's Saint-Lambert square, home to the courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market in the town of 196,000 people.

Some initial reports said it was a foiled bid to rescue a suspect from the courthouse.

The gunman's van was found on the square.

© 2011 AFP

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