Brussels, Oct 17 (EFE).- The jihadist group Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack that killed two supporters of the Swedish national soccer team and injured a third in central Brussels on Monday.
Hours earlier, the national crisis committee had decided to lower the maximum alert level from four for the city of Brussels to three for the entire national territory after police shot dead the suspect on Tuesday morning, claiming it was a “lone wolf” attack.
The Amaq agency, the propaganda organ of IS, released a statement saying that “a fighter of the Islamic State carried out an armed attack yesterday, Monday, against several Christians in Sweden, a country that participates in the international coalition against the Islamic State.”
Amaq, citing security sources, said that the militant, whom it did not identify by name but provided a photo, “began firing his machine gun at Christians before they attended a sports match, killing two of them and wounding two others before Belgian forces killed him when they tried to arrest him.”
Amaq said that according to its sources “the attack comes in the context of operations called by the Islamic State against citizens of the countries of the (international anti-jihadist) coalition.”
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said at a press conference that the attacker “is probably a lone wolf, but we cannot rule out copycat behavior.”
And Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said there was “no indication that the perpetrator of the Brussels attack belonged to a network”.
Suspect shot dead by police
Belgium’s crisis center confirmed Tuesday morning that “the perpetrator of last night’s shooting has been identified and has died.”
Witnesses called police after spotting the suspect at a cafe in the Schaerbeek district of the Belgian capital on Tuesday morning, prosecutors said in a statement, adding that the alleged perpetrator died of gunshot wounds sustained during his arrest.
The suspect was identified as Abdesalem L., a 45-year-old Tunisian national.
Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said the alleged perpetrator was not on the list of suspected terrorists, but was known to police for crimes in Tunisia.
“The attack was not expected,” Verlinden told local radio.
Shortly after the alleged attack, the suspect posted a video online saying he had killed three people “in the name of God.”
In addition to living illegally in Belgium, where he unsuccessfully sought asylum in 2019, there were four reports about the man, but none were enough to add him to the list of terrorists handled by the security services, Van Quickenborne said.
According to the federal prosecutor’s office, the alleged attacker, who was riding a scooter, followed Swedish soccer fans who were traveling in a taxi.
He then opened fire on them with an AR-15 assault rifle as they exited the vehicle at the intersection of Place Sainctelette and Boulevard du Neuvieme de Ligne.
The Swedish national team was playing a Euro 2024 qualifying match against Belgium at the King Baudouin Stadium in northern Brussels.
The match was abandoned at half-time after news of the shooting broke, and the 35,000 spectators in attendance were evacuated under heavy security.