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Two Swedes shot dead in Brussels ‘terrorism’, says PM

Belgium has raised its terror alert to the highest level after two Swedes were shot dead in central Brussels hours as the two nations played a Euro 2024 football match.

Belgian police were still hunting for the gunman on Tuesday (AEDT) – a man who claimed in a video on social media that he was from Islamic State.

He created such fear in the Belgian capital that authorities cancelled the Belgium-Sweden qualifying match at half-time and held 35,000 fans inside the King Baudouin Stadium, where it was being played.

Federal prosecutor’s office spokesman Eric Van Duyse said the investigation centred on “a possible terrorist motivation” after “a claim of responsibility was posted on social media”.

“This person claims to be inspired by Islamic State,” Van Duyse said.

“The Swedish nationality of the victims was put forward as the probable motive.”

In August, Sweden raised its terror alert to the second-highest level after threats from Islamic militant groups followed public burnings of the Koran by an Iraqi refugee living in Sweden.

The alleged assailant, calling himself Abdesalem al-Guilani and a fighter for Allah, said there were three victims rather than two.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo confirmed on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that the victims were Swedish, but not how many.

“I have just offered my sincere condolences to the Swedish PM following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,” de Croo said.

“Our thoughts are with the families and friends who lost their loved ones. As close partners the fight against terrorism is a joint one,” he said.

One Belgian newspaper said it was likely that the victims were two soccer supporters.

Monday’s shooting came amid heightened security concerns in some European countries linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

France is deploying 7000 extra troops onto its streets after a teacher was fatally stabbed on Friday in an attack President Emmanuel Macron condemned as “barbaric Islamic terrorism.”

“Europe is being shaken,” Macron said.

A Belgian police spokesperson confirmed on Monday that two people had been killed in a shooting incident near the centre of the Belgian capital but declined to give further details.

Video footage 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 two shots, then three more. He is then seen running into a building, firing two more shots, leaving, taking a few steps back again and shooting one more time.

One Belgium newspaper said a witness said the shooter shouted “Allahu Akbar” before the shots were fired.

In the video message recorded by the self-declared perpetrator, he said: “Islamic greeting Allahu Akbar. My name is Abdesalem al-Guilani and I am a fighter for Allah. I am from the Islamic State. We love who loves us and we hate who hates us. We live for our religion and we die for our religion. Alhamdulah. Your brother took revenge in the name of Muslims. I have killed 3 Swedes so far Al hamdoulelah. 3 Swedish, yes. Those to whom I have done something wrong, may they forgive me. And I forgive everyone. Salam Aleykoum.”

Belgian media said France had tightened its border controls with Belgium after the shooting.

Belgium’s crisis centre warned the public not to make unnecessary trips in Brussels.

-with AAP

Topics: Belgium
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