Belgium Opens Terrorism Probe Into Saturday’s Machete Attack

  • Suspect identified as Algerian national, prosecutor says
  • Islamic State claims responsibility for assault in Charleroi

Belgium opened a terrorist investigation into Saturday’s machete attack in Charleroi and identified the assailant as an Algerian national who had lived in the country since 2012. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the assault.

Two police officers were injured in the assault in the southern Belgian city before the assailant was fatally shot. The federal prosecutor identified the suspect as K.B., a 33-year-old Algerian who “is known to police for criminal facts, not for terrorism,” according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office on Sunday.

The prosecutor opened an investigation “for attempted terrorist murder," Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told a press conference on Sunday in Brussels. He said the attack is being treated as suspected terrorism partly because of “the suspect’s statements at the time of committing the act.”

The assailant shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he produced a machete at a Charleroi police station in southern Belgium on Saturday afternoon, according to local police. The attacker wounded two female officers before being fatally shot by a third officer.

Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency said one of IS’s soldiers carried out the Belgian attack, responding to calls to target “citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition,” according to a claim shared by U.S.-based SITE Intel Group’s Rita Katz on Twitter, which monitors jihadist social media. Amaq previously used the same claim template after several lone-wolf attacks, including the recent attack on a church in France.

Michel, who cut short his vacation in France to return to Brussels, met with Belgium’s National Security Council on Sunday. The nation’s risk-analysis agency, OCAM, decided to maintain the national threat level at 3, the second-highest, Michel told the press conference. The threat level was raised to the highest after twin suicide bombings on March 22 killed 32 people in Brussels and was lowered one notch two days later.

Belgian police are taking additional measures to ensure officers’ safety, Michel said without giving details.

Separately, another man armed with a machete was arrested in Liege, in eastern Belgium, on Sunday, Belga newswire reported. There was no immediate indication of a link with terrorism.

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