Police shoot dead suspected extremist accused of killing 2 Swedish football fans on a Brussels street
BRUSSELS (AP) — Police in Belgium on Tuesday shot dead a suspected Tunisian extremist accused of killing two Swedish football fans in a brazen shooting on a Brussels street before disappearing into the night.
Hours after a manhunt began in the Belgian capital, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden posted on X, formerly Twitter, that “the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Brussels has been identified and has died.”
She thanked Belgium’s intelligence and security services, as well as the public prosecutor’s office, “for their swift and decisive action last night and this morning.” The man was shot by police in the Schaerbeek neighbourhood near where the rampage took place. The weapon used in the assault was recovered.
Amateur videos posted on social media of Monday’s attack showed a man wearing an orange fluorescent vest pulling up on a scooter, taking out a large weapon and opening fire on people getting out of a taxi before chasing them into a building to gun them down. He was also filmed calmly loading his weapon as cars drove slowly by.
Questions remain unanswered over how a man who was on police files, thought to be radicalised and being sought for deportation was able to obtain a military weapon and launch such an attack.
“Last night, three people left for what was supposed to be a wonderful football party. Two of them lost their lives in a brutal terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a news conference just before dawn. “Their lives were cut short in full flight, cut down by extreme brutality.”
De Croo said his thoughts were with the victims’ families and that he had sent his condolences to the Swedish prime minister. Security has been beefed up in the capital, particularly around places linked to the Swedish community in the city.
“The attack that was launched yesterday was committed with total cowardice,” De Croo said.
Not far from the scene of the shooting, the Belgium-Sweden football match in the Belgian national stadium was suspended at halftime and the 35,000 fans were kept inside as a precaution while the attacker was at large.
“Frustrated, confused, scared. I think everyone was quite scared,” said Caroline Lochs, a fan from Antwerp.
At a news conference in Stockholm, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that “everything indicates this is a terrorist attack against Sweden and Swedish citizens, just because they are Swedish.” He said the suspect had occasionally stayed in Sweden but was not on police files there.
“It’s not an unusual pattern to move around,” Kristersson added. “We have an openness in Europe, which is one of the important reasons why we need to keep an eye on the EU’s external border because otherwise people can easily move between European countries.”
De Croo said the assailant was a Tunisian man living illegally in Belgium who used a military weapon to kill the two Swedes and shoot a third, who is being treated for “severe injuries.”
Federal prosecutors said later that the suspect was found after a witness claimed to have spotted him in a Schaerbeek cafe. Police arrived at the scene and the suspect was shot as they tried to arrest him. First responders attempted to save the man, but he later died in hospital.