Tuesday 6 December 2016

Two suspects hunted after Brussels terror raid

Published 16/03/2016 | 10:01

Police officers speak to each other during an apartment raid in Brussels (AP)
Police officers speak to each other during an apartment raid in Brussels (AP)

Belgian investigators are hunting two suspects who fled an apartment linked to the terror attacks in Paris.

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The nationwide search was launched after a police sniper killed a gunman holed up inside the Brussels apartment where authorities also found a stock of ammunition and an Islamic State flag, officials said.

Four officers were wounded in Tuesday's joint French-Belgian raid after unexpectedly coming under fire from an apartment they believed was empty.

Prosecutors on Wednesday released without charge two men they detained in the wake of the raid, leaving the hunt on for two suspects who have not been identified.

The dead man was identified as an Algerian man living illegally in Belgium, Mohamed Belkaid, whose only contact with authorities appeared to be a two-year-old theft charge, said Thierry Werts, a Belgian prosecutor.

Belkaid, 35, was shot dead by a police sniper as he prepared to fire on police from a window, Mr Werts said. A Kalashnikov rifle was found by his body, as well as a book on Salafism, an ultraconservative strain of Islam.

Inside the apartment in the Forest region of Brussels, police found the banner of the Islamic State extremist group as well as 11 Kalashnikov loaders and a large quantity of ammunition, the prosecutor said.

"We were not expecting a violent armed reaction," Prime Minister Charles Michel told Belgium's RTL radio.

The anti-terror raid was linked to the November 13 gun-and-bomb attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, in which Belgian citizens played key roles.

Among the fugitives is Belgian Salah Abdeslam, who fled the Paris attacks that night, slipped through a dragnet into Brussels and has not been seen since.

On Tuesday, four Belgian and two French police officers unexpectedly came under fire by at least two people armed with a Kalashnikov and a riot gun as soon as they opened the door to the Forest apartment, according to a statement from the Belgian prosecutors.

Four officers, including a French policewoman, were slightly wounded.

The search of another Forest residence on Tuesday night turned up another Kalashnikov as well as two loaded magazines, Belgian officials said.

In France, four people were arrested at dawn on Wednesday amid fears of a separate planned attack. Those arrests were not linked to the Belgian investigation.

Press Association

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