Belgium attack: Liege assailant killed fourth person day before, minister says

31 May, 2018, 17:06 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Two police officers and another person were shot and killed at a Belgian cafe

It was the scene of a shooting in 2011 when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 before turning the gun on himself.

Belgian authorities, which are investigating the killings as a potential terrorist incident, have said Herman may have been radicalized in prison through contact with other inmates.

According to Belgian broadcaster RTBF, the shooter was released from prison on Monday and was only known for minor infractions with no known links to extremism.

The Liege attack which left three dead, along with the gunman, was a "terrorist murder", Belgium's federal magistrate said Wednesday. During the incident, Herman reportedly yelled "Allahu Akbar", Arabic for "God is Great".

Minister Jan Jambon said the gunman, named as Benjamin Herman, had killed another person the night before the attack, a man believed to be a heroin user whose body was found early Tuesday at his home in the eastern village of On, the BBC reported. The slain officers were 45 years old and 53 years old, the latter the mother of twins, Beaupere said. He then took a female cleaner hostage in the nearby Atheneum Leonie de Waha school, a public institution with several hundred students ages 3-18.

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Jambon, Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe visited the woman in hospital, where she was being treated for shock.

Herman, a Belgian national, was released from prison on Monday for a few hours but he failed to return.

"We learned what happened this morning in Belgium during our meeting and the bad attack which seems to be treated as a terror attack by the public prosecutor's office", he said.

Herman allegedly stabbed two female police officers from behind before taking their handguns and fatally shooting them.

He went on to kill trainee teacher Cyril Vangriecken, 22, who was sitting in a nearby vehicle, before taking a female cleaner hostage at a nearby high school.

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Two other officers received injuries to their arms before the attacker was shot dead, prosecutors said.

However, a senior official at the federal prosecutor's office told The Associated Press that "there are indications it could be a terror attack".

Two officers followed him but he ducked into a school on the road, where he took a woman hostage. However, Belgium's crisis center said it saw no reason to raise the country's terror threat for now. "But if you are attacked from behind, as was the case with the two officers, you can't do anything", he said.

Footage on social media showed people running to safety as several gunshots rang out.

Armed police officers with shields, helmets and bulletproof vests then arrived at the scene and "intervened".

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The attack unsettled Belgium, which is still nervous about terrorism after a Brussels-based Islamic State ring was involved in attacks in Paris in November 2015 and Brussels in March 2016 that killed a total of 162 people.

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