Belgium opens terror probe into machete attack on police | News | DW | 07.08.2016
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Belgium opens terror probe into machete attack on police

An official terrorism investigation has been opened into a machete attack which wounded two Belgian policewomen. The attack has reportedly been claimed by the militant "Islamic State" group.

An attack on two female police officers in the Belgian city of Charleroi is being investigated as a terrorist act, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Sunday.

"We have been informed by federal prosecutors that an investigation has started for attempted terrorist murder," Michel told reporters.

The attacker's shout of "Allahu Akbar!" (God is greatest, in Arabic) during the assault contributed to the authorities' decision to classify it as an act of terror.

Also on Sunday, the militant "Islamic State" (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the assailant was one of their "soldiers."

Michel spoke with reporters following an emergency meeting with officials from Belgium's security services.

"We must keep a cool head," Michel said. "We must avoid panic, of course - not give in to terror. That's the trap that has been set for us."

Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Employment, Economy and Consumer Affairs Kris Peeters, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Minister of Defence and Public Service Steven Vandeput pictured at a press conference

Prime Minister Michel called for calm and for citizens to "not give in to terror" following the attack

Attacker's identity revealed

Belgian prosecutors identified the attacker as a 33-year-old Algerian national who had a criminal history and was known to police, but not for terrorism. He had been living in Belgium since 2012.

"There are indications that the attack may have been inspired by a terrorist motive," said prosecutors in a statement.

The office of State Secretary for Migration, Theo Francken, told Belgium's Belga news agency that the man was staying illegally in Belgium, despite being ordered to leave the country.

The attack on Saturday afternoon took place outside Charleroi's main police station, located 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Brussels. The assailant slashed at two policewomen, leaving one with "deep wounds to the face," according to the Belga news agency.

The attacker was shot by police and subsequently died of his wounds.

A bag he was carrying during the attack did not contain explosives or firearms, prosecutors said.

'We are targets'

Following Saturday's attack on the police officers, Belgian officials are considering whether or not additional security measures should be taken, said Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput.

The mayor of Charleroi, Paul Magnette, said on Saturday the checkpoint where the attack took place prevented the attacker from further entering the building.

Prime Minister Michel also saluted "the exceptional courage of the policewomen who suffered this serious attack" and "did what they had to and doubtless thereby prevented an even greater tragedy."

On Sunday, the Charleroi police department requested that reporters not reveal the officers' identities.

"We are targets," explained the police on Twitter.

rs/jlw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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