Two police officers stabbed, shot dead in Liege
A gunman who stabbed and shot dead two police officers before killing a 22-year-old man in a nearby vehicle in Liege on Tuesday was later shot dead by police.
The country has been on alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people at Brussels airport and in the subway system in 2016.
The city's police chief Christian Beaupere said the attacker wounded four other officers: "The goal of the attacker was to target the police."
The fatalities were policewomen aged 45 and 53 years. The latter was a mother of twins.
How the attack unfolded
- At around 10.30 a.m. local time (08.30 UTC), 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.
- The incident took place near a cafe in the Boulevard d'Avroy, located in the administrative district of the city.
- The attacker 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 to prison, officials told the Belga news agency.
- Children from the school were quickly moved to a safe area, Belgian media reported.
Terror probe opened
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.
The attacker was named by public broadcaster RTBF as a 36-year-old criminal and drug dealer who had been let out of prison on day-release on Monday. He appears to have been radicalized while in jail.
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."
Terror nerves: Belgium remains on edge following several years of extremist Islamist activity, most notably the March 2016 "Islamic State" (IS) group suicide bombings on Brussels airport and a metro station which killed 32 people.
Read more: Belgium charges suspect over 2016 Brussels attacks
Extremist cells, previous shooting
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.
Liege was the scene of a shooting in 2011, when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 others before turning the gun on himself.
mm, jm/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
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