A terror suspect has been shot dead in a Brussels suburb and others are said to be on the run after a security operation linked to November’s Islamist attacks in Paris.
The federal prosecutor said the dead man was holding an assault rifle – and that one or more gunmen had opened fire on police who arrived at an apartment.
Four police officers including a French policewoman were injured in a shootout, the Prime Minister Charles Michel told a news conference. Two were still in hospital on Tuesday night, he said, adding that the security operation was ongoing.
Earlier reports said one of those injured was seriously hurt.
Michel played down the importance of the operation, describing the presence of French forces as a coincidence. Belgium’s security council is to meet on Wednesday.
More police raids were reported on Tuesday night in the southern district of Forest, which had spent the whole afternoon in a state of lockdown.
The initial raid appeared to have taken police by surprise, when they were fired on. The prosecutor said they were armed and wearing bulletproof vests, but were not supported by special forces.
Media reports said one or two gunmen had escaped across rooftops.
Schools locked in Forest/Brussels anti terror raid are now evacuated.— Sándor Zsíros (@EuroSandor) 15 March 2016
Local people were shocked at the events. For hours parents were unable to pick up their children trapped inside school buildings.
“It’s a really calm area, nothing happens here really, I think it’s the safest district in the world! People mustn’t speak badly of this place! I’ve lived here for 18 years, I know what I’m talking about, it’s an area where people live really well,” said one young woman.
Eleven people have been charged in Belgium in connection with the Paris attacks that killed 130 people and injured hundreds. Eight of them are still in custody. The investigation has established that the atrocities were largedly planned and coordinated from Brussels.
According to police sources, Tuesday’s operation did not target Salah Abdeslam, one of the main suspects wanted over the Paris attacks, but rather the entourage of one or several of the 11 people charged.
Euronews correspondent in Brussels Sándor Zsíros reported from Forest: “Many questions remain open about the details of this police operation but it looks almost sure that Belgium’s problem with terrorism stays on the agenda – and in the future and we might expect similar raids.”
POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) 15 March 2016