Belgium machete attacker 'not known for terrorism'

A machete-wielding man yelling 'God is greatest in Arabic injures two female police officers before being fatally shot in the Belgian city of Charleroi, in what the prime minister says may have been a terrorist act.

BRUSSELS • A machete-wielding man who attacked and wounded two policewomen in Belgium last Saturday was an Algerian national not known for terrorism, the prosecutor said, as police arrested another man for carrying a machete elsewhere in the country.

The 33-year-old attacker, identified by the initials KB, had been living in Belgium since 2012, the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement yesterday.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, the ISIS-linked Amaq Agency said in a report monitored in Beirut.

The attacker, who shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the assault, was shot by police and died of his injuries in hospital. He was carrying a rucksack but no explosives or other weapons were found.

"There are indications the attack may have been inspired by a terrorist motive," prosecutors said. "He is known to police for criminal acts, not for terrorism."

Saturday's incident took place outside the main police station in Charleroi, around 60km south of the capital Brussels.

Charleroi police spokesman David Quinaux told RTL-TVI that the assailant arrived outside the station and "immediately took a machete out of the sports bag he was carrying and violently struck at the faces of the two policewomen who were on guard duty".

The hacking left one of the policewomen with "deep wounds to the face" while the other was slightly injured.

Prosecutors searched two houses in Charleroi after the attack but did not provide details.

The local prosecutor in Charleroi handed the case to the federal authorities "as there are indications that the attack could have been inspired by terrorist motives", the statement said.

Belgium is increasing security at police stations, Prime Minister Charles Michel told a press conference yesterday.

In a separate incident, Belgian police early yesterday arrested a man with a machete in the eastern city of Liege, broadcaster VRT reported.

It said Liege police had cordoned off an area before detaining the man. It said he was of Turkish origin, did not use the machete and was not previously known to the police.

Islamist bombers killed 32 people in suicide attacks at Brussels airport and a metro station in March. Many of those who carried out attacks in Paris last November, which killed 130 people, were based in Belgium.

Belgian police have carried out dozens of anti-terror raids since the attacks in Paris.

Belgium and its capital, which houses European Union institutions and the headquarters of Nato, are on a security alert level of three out of a maximum four, denoting a "possible and probable" threat.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Belgium machete attacker 'not known for terrorism''. Print Edition | Subscribe