Two police officers have been killed in Belgium after having their weapons stolen by a man who then embarked on a shooting rampage.
Now being treated as a suspected terrorist incident, the attacker is alleged to have approached the officers from behind, before stabbing the two multiple times and shooting them. A 22-year-old male passenger in a car also died at the scene on the Boulevard d’Avory in the eastern city of Liege.
The gunman went onto take a female cleaner hostage at a nearby high school but survived the experience after police shot the attacker dead.
According to reports, the attacker shouted “Allah Akbar” – “God is greatest” in Arabic – prompting authorities to consider terrorism as the motive for the attack.
A spokesman for the anti-terrorist crisis centre said, “It (terrorism) is one of the questions on the table, but for the moment all scenarios are open.”
Online images from eye-witnesses at the scene show people scurrying for safety on Liege’s central boulevard d’Avroy while shots and sirens are heard sounding in the background. One video showed two police officers in body armour move into position.
Belgium has been on high alert since attacks in Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people – and Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died – were found to have emerged from a Brussels-based Islamic State cell.
People have been urged to stay away from the area with a security cordon now in place.
Prime Minister Charles Michel commented that his thoughts were with the families of the victims of the “serious incident”.
Liege – the scene of a shooting in 2011 when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 before turning the gun on himself – is an industrial area close to the German border in the French-speaking Wallonia region.
The anti-terrorist crisis centre is now monitoring the situation.
Mr Jambon said, “Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act. We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened.”