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Belgian police shoot suspect in deadly Brussels attack

October 17, 2023

Officials in Belgium have confirmed a man who shot dead two Swedish football fans in Brussels was killed by police during his arrest. The city had been on high alert following what officials called a "terrorist attack."

A blue police cordon
Police secured the scene in the Schaerbeek neighborhood where the suspect was shot by police Tuesday Image: Lou Lampaert/Belga/dpa/picture alliance

Police in Brussels on Tuesday morning shot a man suspected of carrying out the fatal shooting of two Swedish nationals in the city center on Monday night.

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden later confirmed that the suspect was killed after police encountered him in a cafe in the Belgian capital's Schaerbeek neighborhood. 

"The perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Brussels has been identified and has died," Verlinden wrote on social media. 

What we know so far

Belgium had raised the security alert status of Brussels to the highest level in the wake of the attack, ramping up police presence. Officers tracked down the suspect after an intensive manhunt. 

The automatic rifle found close to the person who was shot was the same weapon as the one used during the Monday evening attack, Interior Minister Verlinden told broadcaster VRT.

Two Swedish nationals were shot dead in the attack and a third one was wounded. The suspect fled the scene in central Brussels after the shooting, as a football match between Belgium and Sweden was about to start. The match was subsequently called off. 

The suspect, who had identified himself as a member of the so-called "Islamic State" terror group, claimed responsibility in a video posted online.

Earlier, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the suspect was a man of Tunisian origin who was living in Belgium illegally.

The attacker was known to police in connection with people smuggling. He had unsuccessfully sought asylum in Belgium in November 2019. 

Police patrol outside the King Baudouin Stadium
Police patrol the streets of Brussels after the attack Image: Sylvain Plazy/AP/picture alliance

Sweden calls for tighter security 

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called on the EU to strengthen border controls and internal security, saying the region could not afford to be "naive."

"All indications are that this is a terror attack aimed at Sweden and Swedish citizens only due to them being Swedish," Kristersson told a news conference.

Sweden's government has warned for months that its citizens were at risk following recent desecrations of the Quran holy book by a handful of anti-Islam activists. 

The shooting comes as some European countries had already raised alertness levels over terrorism linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

A Belgian federal prosecutor said after the shootings that there was no evidence of a link to the recent renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.

On Tuesday, members of the EU parliament stood in silence for the "terrorist" murder of the two Swedish nationals in Brussels. 

rc/wmr (AFP, Reuters)