BRUSSELS — Police in Belgium searched Tuesday for a suspected Tunisian extremist accused of killing two Swedish soccer followers in a brazen taking pictures on a Brussels avenue earlier than disappearing into the night time.
Novice movies posted on social media of Monday’s assault confirmed a person carrying an orange fluorescent vest pull up on a scooter, take out a big weapon and open hearth on passersby earlier than chasing them right into a constructing to gun them down.
“Final night time, three individuals left for what was alleged to be an exquisite soccer get together. Two of them misplaced their lives in a brutal terrorist assault,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo mentioned at a information convention simply earlier than daybreak. “Their lives have been lower quick in full flight, lower down by excessive brutality.”
De Croo mentioned his ideas have been with the victims’ households and that he had despatched his condolences to the Swedish prime minister. Safety has been beefed up within the capital, significantly round locations linked to the Swedish group within the metropolis.
“The assault that was launched yesterday was dedicated with complete cowardice,” De Croo mentioned.
Not removed from the scene of the taking pictures, the Belgium-Sweden soccer match within the Belgian nationwide stadium was suspended at halftime and the 35,000 followers held inside as a precaution whereas the attacker was at giant.
Prosecutor Eric Van Duyse mentioned “safety measures have been urgently taken to guard the Swedish supporters” within the stadium. Greater than two hours after the sport was suspended, a message flashed on the massive stadium display saying, “Followers, you possibly can go away the stadium calmly.” Stand after stand emptied onto streets full of police because the seek for the attacker continued.
“Annoyed, confused, scared. I feel everybody was fairly scared,” mentioned Caroline Lochs, a fan from Antwerp.
De Croo mentioned the assailant was a Tunisian man dwelling illegally in Belgium who used a navy weapon to kill the 2 Swedes and shoot a 3rd who’s recovering from ”extreme accidents.”
Federal Prosecutor Frederic Van Leeuw described how the suspect, a 45-year-old man who wasn’t named, had posted a video on-line claiming to have killed three Swedish individuals.
The suspect is alleged to have mentioned within the video that, for him, the Quran is “a purple line for which he is able to sacrifice himself.”
Sweden raised its terror alert to the second-highest stage in August after a collection of public Quran-burnings by an Iraqi refugee dwelling in Sweden resulted in threats from Islamic militant teams.
Belgian prosecutors mentioned in a single day that nothing steered the assault was linked to the newest struggle between Israel and Hamas.
Police raided a constructing within the Brussels neighborhood of Schaerbeek in a single day the place the person was thought be staying however didn’t discover him. Sweden’s international ministry despatched out a textual content message to subscribers in Belgium asking them “to be vigilant and to rigorously hearken to directions from the Belgian authorities.”
In keeping with Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, the suspect was denied asylum in 2019. He was identified to police and had been suspected of involvement of human trafficking, dwelling illegally in Belgium and of being a danger to state safety.
Data offered to the Belgian authorities by an unidentified international authorities steered that the person had been radicalized and meant to journey overseas to struggle in a holy struggle. However the Belgian authorities weren’t capable of set up this, so he was by no means listed as harmful.
The person was additionally suspected of threatening an individual in an asylum heart and a listening to on that incident had been resulting from happen on Tuesday, Van Quickenborne mentioned.
Belgian Asylum State Secretary Nicole de Moor mentioned the person disappeared after his asylum software was refused so the authorities have been unable to find him to arrange his deportation.
A terror alert for Brussels was raised in a single day to 4, the highest of Belgian’s scale, indicating a particularly critical menace. It beforehand stood at 2, which implies the menace was common. The alert stage for the remainder of the nation was raised to three.
De Croo mentioned that Belgium would by no means undergo such assaults. “Moments like this are a heavy ordeal,” he informed reporters, “however we’re by no means going to let ourselves be intimidated by them.”
Related Press author Sam Petrequin contributed to this report.