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Tuesday 20 March 2018

Terror fear after two Belgian police officers stabbed

An officer stands next to evidence as police investigate the scene in Brussels (AP)
An officer stands next to evidence as police investigate the scene in Brussels (AP)

A knife-wielding man has stabbed two police officers in Brussels in an attack that may be terror-related, Belgian prosecutors said.

It was the latest attack on law enforcement officials in a nation that has been on high alert since 32 people were killed on March 22 in suicide bombing attacks on the Brussels airport and subway.

Two police officers in the Schaerbeek neighbourhood of Brussels were attacked at noon on the street by a man with a knife, the Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

Another police patrol overpowered the man, who was shot in the leg before he was arrested. During that operation, a third police officer was slightly injured, it said.

State-run broadcaster RTBF said the assailant stabbed one officer in the neck, the other in the abdomen and broke the nose of a third officer who shot him.

The suspect arrested was identified by prosecutors as Hicham D, a 43-year-old Belgian national.

"We have reason to believe that it is terror-related," prosecutor's office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said, but declined to explain why.

The daily newspaper Le Soir, quoting sources in the prosecutor's office, said the suspect was a former member of the Belgian army discharged in 2009, and was already known to law enforcement for having had contacts with people who left to fight with Islamic extremist groups in Syria.

At the stabbing scene, a dark green multi-implement eating utensil, similar to those used by soldiers, was marked as evidence on the ground. It was not immediately clear if that was the attack weapon.

An investigating judge specialising in terrorism cases will decide whether Hicham D should remain in custody, prosecutors said. They said the wounds received by police and the suspect were not life-threatening.

In August, a machete-wielding man shouting "Allahu akbar!" - Arabic for "God is great" - attacked and seriously wounded two policewomen in the southern Belgian city of Mons. The assailant was shot dead. The attack was later claimed by the Islamic State extremist group, which also claimed the Brussels suicide bombings.

On September 7, a man carrying a knife attacked two police officers in the Molenbeek area of Brussels, but the officers were wearing bulletproof vests and suffered only bruises. The assailant gave no indication of his motives.


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