A stabbing and shooting attack in the eastern Belgian city of Liege has left two police officers and a passer-by dead. Authorities have launched a terror investigation. Belgium remains on edge following several years of extremist Islamist activity.
A gunman stabbed and shot dead two police officers before killing a bystander in the eastern city of Liege on Tuesday, Belgian authorities said. Belgium has been on alert since suicide bombers killed thirty-two people at Brussels airport and in the subway system in 2016.
The media in Belgium reports the following:
· The attack happened at around 10.30 a.m. local time (08.30 UTC) near a cafe in the Boulevard d’Avroy, located in the administrative district of the city.
· The attacker, who was armed with a knife, approached the two female officers from behind and stabbed them several times, before seizing one of their weapons and shooting them dead, prosecutors said.
· He then shot dead a 22-year-old man in a vehicle parked nearby.
· La Libre Belgique newspaper quoted a police source as saying the gunman shouted Allahu Akbar — God is greatest in Arabic.
· The shooter then fled to a nearby school where he took a woman hostage.
· Broadcaster RTBF said the gunman was later shot dead by police.
· Several officers were injured in the subsequent shoot-out between the shooter and special forces.
· The attacker was an inmate who had been granted a few hours release Monday but failed to return prison, officials told the Belga news agency.
· Children from the school were quickly moved to a safe area, Belgian media reported.
The government terrorism investigators took over the case within two hours of the shooting.
“There are elements that point in the direction that this is a terrorist act,” said Eric Van Der Sypt, spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who traveled to Liege with King Philippe, denounced the “cowardly and blind violence” in a post on Twitter.
Interior Minister Jan Jambon said on Twitter: “Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act. We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened.”
French President Emmanuel Macron denounced a “terrible attack” and expressed the “solidarity of the French people with the Belgian people.”
The Telegraph reports that Belgium remains on edge following several years of extremist Islamist activity. In March 2016 ISIS suicide bombings on Brussels airport and a metro station which killed thirty-two people. In January 2015, police smashed a terror cell in the town of Verviers that was planning an attack on police. The cell had links to Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the November 2015 Paris attacks.
In 2011, a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 others in Liege before turning the gun on himself.