Sunday 11 December 2016

Machete attacker had 'a criminal past'

John Dahlburg

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Police secure an area in front of the Belgian Prime Minister's office, after a man attacked two police officers with a machete near the police headquarters in Charleroi on Saturday. Photo: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
Police secure an area in front of the Belgian Prime Minister's office, after a man attacked two police officers with a machete near the police headquarters in Charleroi on Saturday. Photo: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

ISIL has claimed responsibility for a weekend machete attack in Belgium that wounded two policewomen and which was carried out by an Algerian known to police.

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Belgian prosecutors said the 33-year-old Algerian had a criminal past but was not linked to extremism.

The attack on Saturday afternoon is still being treated as a terrorist incident, notably because the man shouted "Allahu akbar!" - Arabic for "God is great" - as he slashed at the officers outside Charleroi's main police station.

The assailant, shot by a third officer, died later in a hospital.

A statement by the Isil-affiliated Aamaq News Agency, posted yesterday on an Isil-linked Twitter account, said that the attack on the policewomen was in response to the "Crusader coalition's" military campaign against Isil and its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

Belgium, a long-time US ally, is a member of the American-led coalition combating Isil, and has supplied warplanes to participate in anti-Isil operations.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office said that the attacker, whom it identified only as KB, had lived in Belgium since 2012.

Both policewomen were "severely injured in the face and neck" in the attack, the federal prosecutor's statement said. Prime Minister Charles Michel said the prosecutors had opened an official investigation into what they deemed a case of "attempted terrorist murder".

"We must keep a cool head," Michel said. "We must avoid panic, of course - not give in to terror. That's the trap that has been set for us."

Belgium has been on high alert since the March 22 suicide bombings claimed by Isil extremists that killed 32 people in Brussels.

Irish Independent

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