A gunman suspected of killing two Swedish nationals in a terrorist attack in Brussels has been shot dead by police. Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office confirmed on Tuesday that the identity of the slain suspect had not yet been confirmed.
Belgium’s National Crisis Center (NCCN) said he was seen by a witness in a cafe in the Brussels municipality shortly after 8am local time on Tuesday and then shot during police intervention.
Emergency services tried to revive the suspect but the hospital confirmed his death, NCCN found a military weapon in the cafe.
The attack may have a link between the current Israel-Hamas war, Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reported.
The deadly attack by a suspected gunman on Monday night came as Belgium hosted Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifier soccer match at King Bowdoin Stadium, 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Brussels, forcing the match to be abandoned at halftime. The stadium was later evacuated and fans were told to go home immediately.
A spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said in a video posted on social media, a man identified himself as the gunman.
The deadly shooting follows Koran-burning protests in Sweden and Denmark that have sparked angry protests in Muslim-majority countries, raised security fears and prompted both Scandinavian countries to question whether their liberal laws on free speech need to be reviewed.
A witness to the attack told Reuters he heard the first gunshots, saw a couple running away and a white car speeding away.
“When I saw the assailant enter the building, he shot twice at the man,” he said. “The man fell to the ground. I saw him fall because I was close, I could see what was happening inside. I stayed there. I was frozen, I couldn’t move. I’m still reeling from what happened. And then the guy comes back and fires another shot, and he’s out.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib posted on X,
Nothing justifies terrorism and hatred.— Hadja Lahbib (@hadjalahbib) October 17, 2023
In adversity, let's stay united, all together, against any form of violence.
Religion can never be used to sow terror.
Following the attack, the terror threat level for Brussels was raised to 4, the highest level, while the French Interior Ministry told CNN it had “strengthened” checks on the Franco-Belgian border.
Police were on the streets of Brussels to ensure security, the city’s mayor, Philippe Close, posted on X.
De terrorist zou geneutraliseerd zijn door politie. Onze prioriteit is veiligheid van onze medeburgers garanderen. We handelen met methode, kalmte en vastberadenheid. Het gewone leven moet zoveel mogelijk kunnen doorgaan. Bedankt aan alle overheidsdiensten voor hun samenwerking.— Philippe Close (@PhilippeClose) October 17, 2023
The UAEFA said a moment of silence will be observed at all Euro 2024 qualifiers on Tuesday in memory of the two victims of the attack.
Earlier on Tuesday, the European Parliament observed a minute’s silence for the victims. European Parliament President Roberta Metzola said in a speech in Strasbourg on Tuesday that the alert level for the European Parliament building in Brussels had been raised to orange.
Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Wolf Kristerson called on the European Union to strengthen border controls and internal security after the terror attack, saying the region could not be “innocent”.
“All indications are that this is a terrorist attack targeting Sweden and Swedish citizens just for being Swedish,” Kristersson told a news conference. “These terrorists want to intimidate us into obedience and silence. It won’t happen,” he added.
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