Belgian police have killed a Tunisian man suspected of shooting two Swedish football fans in Brussels in a “terrorist attack”. The suspect, identified as Abdesalem L, was shot by police during his arrest. The attack occurred just before a Belgium-Sweden football match.
Belgian police on Tuesday shot and killed a 45-year-old Tunisian man suspected of gunning down two Swedish football fans in Brussels in what authorities described as a “terrorist attack”. The suspect, identified as Abdesalem L, was reportedly pronounced dead shortly after he was taken to the hospital, although authorities have yet to confirm this. Police fired at him while arresting him in the neighborhood of Schaerbeek.
The arrest followed an intensive manhunt overnight in the capital for the assailant armed with an automatic rifle. Police found the same weapon used in Monday evening’s fatal attack near where Abdesalem L was when they arrested him, Belgian Interior Minister Annelis Verlinden told broadcaster VRT.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo earlier said the suspect was a man of Tunisian origin who had been living in Belgium illegally. “The terrorist attack that happened yesterday was committed with total cowardice; the attacker chose as a target two Swedish football fans,” Mr. de Croo said. A third person was seriously injured.
Sweden expressed its devastation over the shooting – which occurred just before a Belgium-Sweden football match on Monday evening – and European leaders were quick to offer their solidarity.
In a video posted in Arabic on social media, a man identifying himself as the attacker said “he was inspired by the Islamic State” (ISIS) extremist group, prosecutors said.
The gunman, wearing a high-visibility orange jacket, fled on a scooter, and Belgian authorities raised the terror alert for Brussels to level four or “very serious” – the highest – and level three nationally.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn said the suspect had been convicted in Tunisia “for common law offenses”, but was not considered a terrorist risk.
Prosecutors said the attacker in his video had indicated the Swedish nationality of his victims was a motivation, but there appeared to be no links with the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.
As news spread of the killings, the Group F European Championship qualifier was abandoned at half-time, and about 35,000 fans were evacuated from the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.
Officers provided extra protection for Swedish citizens at the game, escorting Sweden’s players directly to the airport to leave safely, Belgium’s football association chief executive told the RTBF channel.
The President of the European Commission, which is based in Brussels, was quick to condemn the attack. “My thoughts are with the families of the two victims of the despicable attack in Brussels,” Ursula von der Leyen posted on social media. “Together, we stand united against terror.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe was “shaken” by the “Islamist” attack in Brussels, while France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had earlier given instructions to strengthen border controls with Belgium.
Belgium was the target of an attack claimed by ISIS extremists in March 2016, at Brussels’ main airport and on the metro system, which killed 32 people..