Monday 20 November 2017

Belgium machete attack 'an act of terror' says Prime Minister

Police officers secure the area near to the police headquarters in Charleroi, Belgium (AP)
Police officers secure the area near to the police headquarters in Charleroi, Belgium (AP)

Belgian authorities are treating a machete attack on two police officers as an act of terror, the country's prime minister said on Sunday.

After an emergency meeting of security chiefs, Prime Minister Charles Michel said the attacker's shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Great) as he slashed at the officers outside the Charleroi police station on Saturday were a notable factor in the authorities' decision.

The Belgian Federal Prosecutor's Office has opened an official investigation into what it deems a case of "attempted terrorist murder," Mr Michel said.

The attacker, who has not yet been identified by Belgian law enforcement, was shot dead as he attacked the officers. One officer was badly wounded in the face.

Mr Michel cut short his holiday in the south of France to hurry back to Brussels following the attack in the southern Belgian city.

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

He said prosecutors are expected to release information about the Charleroi attacker later on Sunday.

Belgium has been on high alert since the March 22 suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State extremists that killed 32 people in Brussels. Many of the perpetrators of the November 13 carnage in Paris that killed 130 people were also residents of Belgium.

"We know we must be constantly, constantly vigilant," Mr Michel said.

Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput said the government's Crisis Centre would meet to determine if additional measures should be taken to protect police buildings and staff.

The identities of the attacked police officers were not being released.

Press Association

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