'Link to Isis declared by alleged Belgium gunman; Brussels shooting claims lives of two Swedish football fans'
Brussels police hunt suspected terrorist who killed two Swedish football fans, claiming it was to "avenge Muslims."
In a shocking and horrifying incident, Brussels police are currently on the hunt for a suspected terrorist who shot and killed two Swedish football fans in an act of vengeance against Muslims. The incident occurred during a Euro 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden on Monday evening. The gunman, identified as Abdesalem L, remains at large and is believed to be headed towards the King Baudouin national stadium. Prior to the attack, the alleged terrorist, using the name Slayem Slouma, posted on social media about a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was stabbed 26 times in Chicago. Expressing his views on the incident, the suspect stated that if the boy had been Christian, it would have been labeled terrorism rather than a brutal crime. The suspect was already known to Belgium's security services due to signs of radicalization before the attack. Police are conducting searches in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels, where the assailant was reportedly living. The suspect, who is of Tunisian origin, was living in Belgium illegally, according to local media reports.
During the match between Belgium and Sweden, which was ultimately abandoned at halftime, approximately 35,000 fans were ordered to remain in the King Baudouin Stadium, several kilometers away from the attack. The scene was filled with tears and panic as fans tried to contact their loved ones. It was not until around 11:50 pm local time, nearly five hours after the initial attack, that supporters were finally evacuated from the stadium. Following the incident, France and the Netherlands announced plans to tighten border controls with Belgium.
Footage of the attack depicted a man wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and a white motorcycle helmet opening fire on innocent bystanders. He was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" and later recorded a video proclaiming his dedication to his religion and his role in avenging Muslims. The federal prosecutor's office confirmed that the incident is being investigated as a terror attack, and Brussels has been placed on high alert as authorities continue their search for the gunman. Additional video footage showed the gunman chasing his victims into an office building and firing at them once again. The situation remained chaotic as the alleged terrorist quickly fled the scene on a motor scooter.
Social media platforms were inundated with separate videos allegedly showing the gunman, still wearing the fluorescent orange jacket, declaring his affiliation with the terror group ISIS. As police secured the area, the suspect remained at large, and the attack site, located near Sainctelette Square, was cordoned off. The attack occurred shortly after 7 pm local time near the Boulevard d'Ypres in the northern part of Brussels.
Eyewitnesses recounted the horrifying scene, with one individual named Mehdi describing a man lying lifeless on the ground in a pool of blood. He also noticed a black car with three bullet holes nearby, one of the occupants dead and the other covered in blood but still alive. The public prosecutor's office confirmed that a taxi driver was injured in the shooting but is now out of immediate danger. Authorities have stated that there are no immediate connections to the ongoing security situation in Israel following the recent Hamas terrorist attack.
The nationality of the victims, who were Swedish, may have been a motivating factor for the attacker, according to a spokesperson for the Federal Prosecutor's office. However, it is unclear if recent protests in Sweden, during which pages of the Quran were set alight, are linked to this attack. In August, the British Foreign Office issued a warning to travelers, stating that a terrorist attack in Sweden was highly likely following the Quran-burning protests.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo expressed his condolences to the victims and their families, emphasizing the joint effort needed to combat terrorism. De Croo, along with Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, arrived at the scene of the attack to assess the situation. As officials meet to discuss the ongoing manhunt, the opening of schools and offices in Brussels is being evaluated. The National Crisis Centre has raised the city's warning level to the highest level, advising against unnecessary travel, while the rest of the country remains at level three.
Belgium's foreign minister, Hadja Lahbib, confirmed the incident as a terror attack and called for all necessary measures to be taken to combat radicalism. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, expressed her condolences to the victims' families and offered her support to the Belgian police forces in their efforts to swiftly apprehend the suspect.