Friday 15 November 2019

Liege killings terrorist murders – Belgian magistrate

Benjamin Herman is said to have cried out ‘Allahu akbar’ several times during the attacks.

Liege police officers Soraya Belkacemi and Lucille Garcia (AP)
Liege police officers Soraya Belkacemi and Lucille Garcia (AP)

By Lorne Cook and Raf Casert

The Liege attacks which left three people dead are being considered “terrorist murders”, and the investigation now centres on whether the attacker acted alone, a Belgian federal magistrate said.

The attacker, identified as Benjamin Herman, shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great”, several times during spree before he was shot down by a group of police officers, magistrate Wenke Roggen said.

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

Allied to this is the fact that he yelled “Allahu Akbar”, and had been in contact with radicalised people.

The attacker killed two female police officers by stabbing them from behind, stealing their service weapons and shooting them. He also killed a 22-year-old male passer-by in a car, before taking at least one woman hostage at a nearby school. When police closed in, he ran out onto the pavement, shooting, before police fatally shot him.

Earlier, Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon confirmed Herman, who had been a prisoner on a two-day release, had already killed another person the day before the attack.

Mr Jambon also said that the woman he took hostage may have talked the shooter down and helped to avoid more deaths inside the school.

Belgian police guard the scene of a shooting in Liege (AP)

The fourth victim was confirmed as a former inmate who did prison time with Herman. The man is alleged to have been killed on Monday evening when Herman hit him over the head with a blunt object.

Mr Jambon, Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe visited the woman who was taken hostage in hospital, where she was being treated for shock.

“She was very courageous and perhaps, but this we will have to verify, she helped avoid more victims in the school,” Mr Jambon said.

The minister said an investigation has been launched into the incident, including the circumstances surrounding Herman’s release from prison.

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

“It’s really an isolated case. He wasn’t part of a network, he didn’t receive instructions from anyone else, so there is no need to raise the terror threat alert level,” he said, adding that investigators have no precise information that any other attacks might be likely.

Amid questions about how two officers could have been disarmed, Mr Jambon praised the work of all involved, saying “the police did an extraordinary job”.

He added: “They reacted well. All the systems, all the procedures worked. But if you are attacked from behind, as was the case with the two officers, you can’t do anything.”

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