February 22, 2024

Police take security measures as they shoot and capture the suspect who opened fire randomly in the city center, 5 kilometers away from the King Baudouin Stadium where the Euro 2024 qualifying football match between Belgium and Sweden took place, killing 2 Swedish people, in Brussels, Belgium on October 17, 2023.

Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

A 45-year-old Tunisian gunman suspected of killing two Swedish football fans in Brussels died on Tuesday after being shot by police in a cafe, authorities said.

“The perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Brussels has been identified and died,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden posted on X.     

The man, who was shot in the chest, died in hospital from his wounds, media said.    

He is suspected of killing two Swedish nationals and wounding a third in central Brussels on Monday night.

He identified himself as a member of the Islamic State and claimed responsibility in a video posted online.

The shooting came at a time of heightened security concerns in some European countries linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict, though a Belgian federal prosecutor said there was no evidence that the attacker had any link to the recent renewed conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Verlinden said earlier that she could not rule out that the gunman had had accomplices.

The suspect fled the scene after the shooting on Monday as a football match between Belgium and Sweden was about to start, triggering a massive manhunt and prompting Belgium to raise its terrorism alert to its highest level.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called Monday’s shooting a brutal “terrorist attack”.

“Last night three people left for what was supposed to be a wonderful soccer party. Two of them lost their lives in a brutal terrorist attack,” De Croo told a news conference.

“The perpetrator targeted specifically Swedish supporters who were in Brussels to attend a Red Devils soccer match. Two Swedish compatriots passed away. A third person is recovering from severe injures,” de Croo said.

Belgium was hosting Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifying match on Monday evening. The match was abandoned at halftime.

The country has raised the security alert status of its capital city to the highest level, with increased police presence, particularly for Swedish people and institutions, and warned the public to be extra vigilant and avoid unnecessary travel.

Security Concerns

The suspected attacker, who unsuccessfully sought asylum in Belgium in November 2019, was known to police in connection with people smuggling, Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne told a news conference.

Sweden’s Sapo security police, who in August raised their terrorism alert to the second-highest level and warned of an increase in threats against Swedes at home and abroad, said they were in contact with their international counterparts.

“We are in a serious situation … Sweden has (over time) ended up in an increasingly clear focus of violent Islamist extremism,” a Sapo spokesperson said in a statement.

The suspected gunman, calling himself Abdesalem Al Guilani, claimed in a video on social media that he was a fighter for Allah.

Video footage of the attack posted on the Het Laatste Nieuws newspaper website showed a man in an orange jacket on a scooter at a street intersection with a rifle first firing five shots, then following people fleeing into a building before firing again.

The newspaper said on Tuesday that police were looking for an accomplice who filmed the attack.

According to a media transcript of the video message recorded by the self-declared perpetrator, he said he had killed Swedes to take revenge in the name of Muslims.

The European Commission, which is based in Brussels, has urged staff to work from home. Some schools were closed.

Belgium has been the target of several Islamist attacks over recent years, the deadliest being the 2016 attack on Brussels airport and the city’s metro, in which 32 people died.

Several of the Islamist gunmen who targeted Paris in a 2015 attack that killed 130 people were Belgian or living in Brussels.

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