Belgian police have shot dead a man suspected of killing two Swedish nationals and injuring a third person in a gun attack condemned by the country’s leader as “terrorist madness”.
“The perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Brussels has been identified and died,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday.
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The accused, a 45-year-old Tunisian national, died in hospital after being shot in the chest, Belgian media said.
Officials said earlier that police had opened fire and “neutralised” the suspect, following an intensive overnight manhunt in the Belgian capital.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said the man had been living in the country illegally.
The suspect’s death comes after a man who identified himself as a member of the armed group ISIL (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted online.
Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, said the investigation was focused on “a possible terrorist motivation for the shooting” after “a claim of responsibility was posted on social media”.
Authorities were working to verify the video.
“This person claims to be inspired by Islamic State,” Van Duyse said. “The Swedish nationality of the victims was put forward as the probable motive.”
Sweden raised its threat alert to the second-highest level in August, warning of an increase in threats against Swedish interests abroad after the burning of the Quran by an Iraqi refugee in Sweden outraged Muslims and led to threats from hardline groups.
De Croo confirmed in a post on X that the victims were Swedish.
“I have just offered my sincere condolences to the Swedish PM following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,” De Croo wrote.
“Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones. As close partners, the fight against terrorism is a joint one.”
The federal prosecutor said the third victim, who was wounded but whose condition is not life-threatening, is a taxi driver. The prosecutor called on people in Brussels to stay indoors until the threat was over.
The threat alert in Brussels was raised to its top level of four, meaning a “threat is extremely serious”. It was previously at level two, indicating an average threat.
A man calling himself Abdesalem Al Guilani claimed in a video on social media that he was “a fighter for [God]” and a member of ISIL.
One Belgian newspaper said it was likely the victims were football supporters given that Belgium was hosting Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifying match on Monday evening. The match, held in front of 35,000 fans at the national stadium, not far from the shooting site, was suspended at half-time for security reasons.
Fans were told to remain in the venue after the suspension and were allowed to leave after a couple of hours.
“Frustrated, confused, scared. I think everyone was quite scared,” said Caroline Lochs, a fan from Antwerp.
Video footage of the attack shared on media outlets showed a man wearing a white helmet and orange fluorescent vest arriving on a scooter, dropping the vehicle and immediately taking out a large weapon and opening fire on passersby.
The attacker then picked up his scooter and sped off into the gathering darkness.
Source: News Agencies