Tuesday 19 June 2018

Islamic State group claims deadly Belgium attack

The attacker has been identified as Benjamin Herman, an inmate on a two-day prison furlough.

A member of the public attends a moment of silence for shooting victims near the City Hall in Liege (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)
A member of the public attends a moment of silence for shooting victims near the City Hall in Liege (Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP)

By Lorne Cook and Raf Casert, Associated Press

The man who killed four people in an attack in the Belgian city of Liege was a “soldier of the caliphate”, Islamic State has claimed.

It came on Wednesday night in a brief statement on the IS media arm, the Aamaq news agency.

They said the attack in Liege was carried out in response to calls by the militant group to target countries that are members of an international coalition fighting the IS group.

The wording is typical of the terror group’s opportunistic claims, even when perpetrators have not been directly linked to IS.

The attacker has been identified as Benjamin Herman, an inmate on a two-day prison furlough.

He yelled “Allahu akbar”, the Arabic phrase for “God is great”, during Tuesday’s rampage including when he ran out to face police the last time.

Herman attacked two female police officers from behind with a knife, stabbing them repeatedly, before stealing their handguns and shooting them as they lay on the ground.

Crossing the road, he fired several shots at a 22-year old man who was a passenger in a car, killing him. Herman then took a cleaning woman hostage at a nearby school.

When police closed in, he ran out onto the pavement, firing more shots, before police fatally shot him.

The police officers have been identified as Soraya Belkacemi, 44, and Lucile Garcia, 54. The passenger in the car was named as Cyril Vangriecken, 22, who was preparing to become a primary school teacher.

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Liege police officers Soraya Belkacemi, left, and Lucille Garcia, right, were victims of the attack (Liege Police Department/AP)

Belgian federal magistrate Wenke Roggen said the attack was considered “terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder”.

She said it is being treated as terrorism given the way Herman acted, which she says resembled Islamic State calls to attack police with knives and steal their weapons.

The attack started outside a Liege cafe and Ms Roggen said the attacker went in and out of it a few times after shooting the officers, but people inside had fled or hidden, thanks to the quick thinking of the owner.

Prosecutors said Herman has had several run-ins with police since he was a minor. He has been sentenced on assault, drug and insubordination charges. He left prison early on Monday on furlough and should have returned on Tuesday evening.

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A memorial at the scene of the attacks in Liege (AP)

Interior minister Jan Jambon told broadcaster RTL Herman “also committed a murder the night before”.

Mr Jambon said the other victim, named in reports as Michael Wilmet, was a former inmate who did prison time with Herman.

Herman is alleged to have killed the man on Monday evening by hitting him over the head with a blunt object.

He added that the woman he took hostage, Imaankaf Darifa, may have talked the shooter down and helped to avoid more deaths inside the school.

Press Association

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