Trumpet and roses honour gunman’s victims

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Thousands of people yesterday gathered in Liege for a silent ceremony to remember the victims of a hand grenade and automatic rifle attack that left five dead.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and Crown Prince Philippe stood with the city’s mayor on the same cobblestones where the attack took place last week.

Investigators are still looking for clues as to why Nordine Amrani, a 33-year-old with a criminal record, swept into the central square in the middle of the Christmas shopping season to unleash the rampage that killed four people and wounded 123 others. He committed suicide immediately after the attack.

Instead of speeches, a lone trumpet pierced the silence of the half-hour ceremony. Officials carried white roses and added them to a thick wall of mementos that has grown as Liege residents expressed their grief. The adjacent Christmas market did not open in remembrance of the victims.

“When I heard and saw this, I was really touched by this tragedy and it is to give homage that I am here,” said Maxim Lonhienne, a resident of the city of 200,000 who was part of the packed crowd.

At the end of the 30-minute ceremony, subdued applause rippled across the square as Crown Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde left.

Authorities said they still did not know what motivated Amrani. Before the massacre, he also shot a housekeeper dead at a shed he owned. It remained unclear what connection that killing had to the deadly rampage.

“We are trying to find out who this person really is and how someone who did not give any sign of mental difficulties could have acted in such a way,” said Liege prosecutor Cedric Visart de Bocarme.

Amrani, who had spent time in prison for offences involving guns and drugs, had been called in for questioning in a sexual abuse case on the day of the shooting.

Instead of meeting investigators, he took a backpack filled with ammunition and grenades to the square.