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Suspected migrant smugglers lead Belgian police on fatal high-speed chase

Four men allegedly forced truck drivers in Belgium to load migrants by threatening them with knives. When police arrived, the ensuing chase covered 40 kilometers and left one bystander dead.

Suspected migrant smugglers led Belgian police in a high-speed chase that ended in tragedy on Thursday after causing a deadly traffic accident in northern France.The incident killed one bystander, and injured several others as well as the four suspects.

Belgian police were first alerted around dawn by some truckers in a parking lot near the city of Ostend that smugglers were attempting to put migrants inside vehicles heading to the UK. The French newspaper "La Voix du Nord" reported that the suspects had threatened the truck drivers with knives to load the migrants.

As police approached, four men in a UK-registered Audi sped off past the officers.

The chase continued some 25 miles (40 kilometers), south through the border with France, and reached speeds of up to 125 mph (200 kph). The ensuing chaos caused long traffic backups, several injuries and one fatality when a Dutch motorcyclist hit an unmoving truck near the French port city of Dunkirk.

When the suspects began to ram patrol cars in their attempt to evade capture, police opened fire. Later, when all four were rushed to the hospital, officers confirmed that at least two had received gunshot wounds.

According to Belgian authorities, the recent security crackdown on the Channel Tunnel has prompted people smugglers hoping to ferry their cargo into Britain to change tack and move via Belgium. Eighteen people have already been arrested since January for alleged migrant-smuggling near various Belgian ports.

es/sms (AP, Reuters)

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