June 5, 2014 6:12 AM EDT

Murder Suspect Who Fought in Syria Fuels Concern in the West

When French citizen Mehdi Nemmouche allegedly planned his May 24 assault on Brussels’ Jewish Museum–an attack that killed three people–he decided to bring a .38-caliber revolver and an assault rifle. He also brought skills honed on the Syrian battlefield, where he had traveled last year to join with radical Islamist fighters seeking to oust President Bashar Assad, according to French officials who detained Nemmouche as a suspect on May 30.

The fact that a fighter linked to a virulent al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria may have returned to wreak havoc in Europe is a nightmare come true for security officials. Western jihadis risk becoming radicalized in Syria, officials have long warned, and their passports grant them easy access to targets back home.

There is no evidence to indicate that the Brussels attack originated in Syria; in fact, most details about Nemmouche’s past reveal that he was radicalized in a French prison in 2012, before he went to Syria.

But with some 3,000 Westerners fighting in Syria, including some 70 Americans, the case has turned a spotlight on a growing area of concern on both sides of the Atlantic. A day after Nemmouche’s arrest, French police detained four people suspected of helping recruit fighters to join the Syrian conflict. Earlier in May, Florida native Moner Mohammad Abusalha blew himself up in an attack on a Syrian military target, becoming the first known American suicide bomber in Syria.

Abusalha’s attack supports the view among some officials and analysts that for now, foreign jihadis and the groups that back them are focusing on fighting Assad rather than against the West. But that calculation could change, particularly if Western leaders, faced with the inevitability of the regime’s continuation in power, decide to change their position and accommodate the government in Damascus. In such a scenario, foreign fighters may turn to targeting their governments back home.


‘I’m tired of struggling and worrying about my safety and that of my family.’

BASSEM YOUSSEF, Egyptian satirist, announcing the end of his popular television show on June 2. Youssef blamed unspecified political pressures for the move, raising concerns about free speech in Egypt as former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi becomes President



A new University of Washington study has found that 2.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese. Here’s a snapshot of the percentage of people who fall in those categories around the world:


Saudi Arabia









Three Essential Facts About

Spain’s Next King

After 39 years on the Spanish throne, King Juan Carlos announced on June 2 that he will abdicate in favor of his only son, Crown Prince Felipe de Borbon, who has been playing an increasingly prominent role in the royal household as health problems have taken their toll on his father.


Felipe has managed to avoid the recent scandals that have forced the monarchy on the back foot. In 2012 the King faced embarrassment when it emerged that he had taken an expensive elephant-hunting trip in Botswana while Spain was mired in a recession. Meanwhile, Felipe’s sister Cristina became the first modern royal to be questioned in court when she was called to testify in a high-profile corruption case in February.


A January survey gave the crown prince an approval rating of 66%. In contrast, only 41% of those polled approved of King Juan Carlos, who once enjoyed broad support among the Spanish public after intervening to stop a coup in the early ’80s.


In 2004, Felipe, a former Olympic yachtsman who was educated at Georgetown University, married Letizia Ortiz, a well-known TV journalist and a middle-class divorcée. Seen as modern and accessible, the couple have since had two young girls, Princesses Leonor and Sofia.

A Brutal End


Sohan Lal displays photos of his daughter Murti, right, and niece Pushpa, whose bodies were found hanging from a tree in a village in the state of Uttar Pradesh on May 28. The girls, ages 12 and 14, respectively, were gang-raped and killed in an attack that has once again highlighted the problem of sexual violence in India, a year and a half after the brutal gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi prompted an international outcry.

The Explainer

The World Cup’s Endangered Mascot

Conservationists in Brazil are calling on FIFA, soccer’s governing body, to do more to protect the animal that inspired the mascot for the 2014 World Cup, which begins on June 12. The mascot, adorned with the colors of the Brazilian flag, is based on the country’s three-banded armadillo, which rolls into a nearly perfect ball to protect itself.

The Problem

The armadillo is at risk of extinction as a result of hunting and deforestation. The animal’s dry forest habitat in the country’s northeast, known as the Caatinga, has been reduced by almost half in recent years.

FIFA’s Response

FIFA says that by basing the mascot on the Brazilian armadillo and naming it Fuleco–a combination of the Portuguese words for soccer and ecology–it is helping raise awareness about the problem.

The Criticism

Activists say FIFA is not doing enough and should invest more money in conservation efforts. They want the organization to work with the government to help designate parts of the Caatinga as protected areas.



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This appears in the June 16, 2014 issue of TIME.

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