Belgian soldiers shoot dead knife attacker, 2 police officers assaulted in London

August 26, 2017 - 7:32 AM
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Belgian soldiers during an evening patrol in Brussels. (Reuters file)
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BRUSSELS — Belgian soldiers shot dead a man in the center of Brussels on Friday evening after he came at them with a knife while in London, police said a man with a “large knife” who assaulted two police officers outside Buckingham Palace had been arrested.

The Brussels attacker, a 30-year-old Belgian of Somali origin, died after being rushed to hospital. The soldiers were not seriously hurt in the attack — one had a facial wound and the other’s hand was wounded.

Belgian authorities are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

Prosecutors said the man, who was not known for terrorist activities, had twice shouted Allahu Akbar (God is great) during the attack, which occurred at around 8:15 p.m. local time (1815 GMT) just outside the city’s central pedestrian zone while the soldiers were on patrol.

The case passed from local to federal prosecutors, who typically handle terrorist cases. A spokeswoman for the prosecution service said they were treating the case as one of attempted terrorist murder.

Brussels mayor Philip Close said the alert status, already just one off the maximum level, had not been increased.

“Initial indications are … that it is an isolated attack, a single person,” Close told reporters beside a street blocked by police.

Soldiers routinely patrol the streets of the Belgian capital due to a heightened security alert level after Islamist shooting and bomb attacks in Paris in 2015 and Brussels in 2016.

In June, troops shot dead a suspected suicide bomber at Brussels’ central train station. There were no other casualties. Authorities treated the incident as an attempted terrorist attack.

In London, meanwhile, the officers who came under attack suffered minor injuries.

The attacker, who is in his mid-twenties according to the police, was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and assault on police near Queen Elizabeth’s London residence.

No members of the royal family were present in the palace at the time. A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said she was unable to comment at this stage on the motivation for the incident.

Britain has been hit this year by four militant attacks in which 36 people were killed, and the country’s threat level is at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely.

A Reuters witness near the scene said police had cordoned off a large area for security, including The Mall, a wide avenue leading up to the palace. Footage on Sky News showed emergency vehicles lining the street outside the palace.

“The man was stopped this evening, Friday 25 August at approximately 20:35 hours (1935 GMT) by officers at the Mall outside Buckingham Palace in possession of (a) knife,” the police said in a statement.

“During the course of detaining him, two male police officers suffered minor injuries to their arm.”

The suspect was taken to a London hospital for treatment of minor injuries, the police statement added. There were no other reported injuries.

The police said the suspect will be questioned by detectives and that it is too early to speculate further.