Was Belgium shooting a terror attack?
Reports suggest the gunman had been radicalised in prison
Belgian authorities are facing questions over the release of a convicted criminal, believed to have been radicalised in jail, who killed three people in the Belgian city of Liege yesterday.
The shooter, who has been identified as 31-year-old Benjamin Herman, reportedly attacked police and took a hostage at a school, before being killed in a shootout that injured four other officers.
What motivated the attack?
“The man’s motive is not yet clear but the incident is being treated as terrorism,” the BBC says, adding that local media had reported that the gunman had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) during the attack.
Officials are investigating reports that Herman had recently been radicalised while he was in prison for drug offences. He was out of prison on temporary release when the attack occurred.
Police say Herman attacked the two female police officers from behind, repeatedly slashing at them with a box-cutter, before taking their service pistols and shooting them both dead.
He then fired on a parked car, killing 22-year-old University of Liege student Cyriel Vangriecken, who was in the passenger seat of his mother’s vehicle.
Liege prosecutor Philippe Dulieu told The Guardian that the gunman then “walked to the Leonie de Waha school where he took a female cleaner hostage”.
“Police intervened, he came out firing on the police officers, wounding several, before he was killed,” Dulieu said.
Two officers from the judicial brigade were shot in the arm, and two counter-terrorism officers were shot in the leg, one with serious injuries.
“The goal of the attacker was to target the police… it was aimed at the state of Belgium. Four policemen were injured and taken to the hospital,” Liege police chief Christian Beaupère said.
Why was attacker let out of prison?
Belgian authorities “sought to deflect questions on Wednesday over the furlough of a convicted criminal, known to have been radicalised in jail,” Reuters reports.
In and out of jail for a range of crimes since 2003, “Herman found a path to violence that has heightened concerns Europe’s prisons are incubators for radicalism”, the news agency adds.