Belgium: Islamist on terrorism watchlist kills policeman
The suspect 'Yassine M.' shouted 'Allahu Akbar' as he killed police officer
The knifeman who fatally stabbed a Brussels police officer before being shot and arrested was already on a watch list maintained by Belgium's terrorism monitoring agency, the country's federal prosecutors said Friday.
The incident represents yet another suspected instance of jihadist terrorism in the European country, which suffered many deadly attacks in recent years.
Investigators told reporters that the suspect "Yassine M.," who was born in Brussels in 1990, shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he lunged at two officers in a patrol car on Thursday.
One of the policemen, identified only as 29-year-old Thomas M., was stabbed in the throat and died shortly afterwards. The second 23-year-old officer was operated on for wounds to the right arm and is in stable condition.
The federal prosecutor referred the case to an investigating magistrate as an alleged "murder and an attempted murder committed in a terrorist context."
A second police patrol intervened during the incident, which took place near the Belgian capital's Gare du Nord station in the early evening, and the attacker was shot and wounded and is detained in hospital.
Earlier in the day, the suspect presented himself at a Brussels police station making what the head of the Brussels prosecutor's office, Tim De Wolf, described as "incoherent remarks."
"He spoke of hatred against the police and asked to be taken care of psychologically," De Wolf said.
Yassine M. was taken by officers to the psychiatric emergency room of a Brussels hospital, but was not arrested or detained as he did not, the officials said, meet the criteria for a involuntary committal.
"Later, the police contacted the hospital again to check whether the person had been kept under observation. It turned out that he had left the hospital," the Brussels prosecutor's office said.
Yassine M. was imprisoned between 2013 and 2019 for "common law offences" but was also on a list drawn up by the Belgian terror observatory the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM), which monitors extremism.