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Police cordon off an area where a shooting took place in the centre of Brussels Alamy Stock Photo
Brussels

Terror alert raised to highest level in Belgium as two Swedish people killed in shooting

The Euro 2024 qualifier match between Belgium and Sweden was suspended following the attack in Brussels.

LAST UPDATE | 16 Oct 2023

BELGIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE raised the terror alert to its highest level in the capital after the fatal shooting of two Swedish people in Brussels which Prime Minister Alexander De Croo suggested was linked to terrorism.

The OCAD anti-terror centre also said the terror alert for the rest of the country had been raised to its second-highest level.

Laura Demullier of the OCAD said the highest priority for authorities was to get thousands of football fans attending a Belgium-Sweden football match safely out of the stadium where the match was abandoned half-way through.

The attacker was still at large and the killings happened three miles from the stadium, where more than 35,000 fans were watching the game.

“The population needs to be actively vigilant and avoid any unnecessary travel,” Ms Demullier said.

Raising the terror level to the top 4 rating means the threat is “extremely serious”. It previously stood at 2, which means the threat was average.

“I have just offered my sincere condolences to @SwedishPM following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,” De Croo wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“As close partners the fight against terrorism is a joint one.”

It was not immediately clear if the shooting was linked to international uproar over the Israel-Hamas war.

The Belgian federal prosecutor leading on terrorism cases as launched an investigation into the attack.

The case has been taken over from the Brussels prosecutor, said Eric Van Duyse of the federal prosecutor’s office. 

“A horrible shooting in Brussels, and the perpetrator is actively being tracked down,” said interior minister Annelies Verlinden, adding that she was joining government talks at the National Crisis Centre.

Media reports aired amateur videos showing a man shooting several times near a station using a large weapon.

Police spokeswoman Ilse Vande Keere said officers arrived soon at the scene of the shooting, and sealed off the immediate neighbourhood.

She declined to elaborate on the circumstances of the shooting.

police-cordon-off-an-area-where-a-shooting-took-place-in-the-center-of-brussels-monday-oct-16-2023-belgian-police-say-that-two-people-are-dead-in-central-brussels-after-several-shots-were-fired Police cordon off an area where the shooting took place in the centre of Brussels Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Match suspended

A police official said the two victims were Swedes.

Several Belgian media outlets also said the two individuals killed were wearing football shirts belonging to the Swedish national team ahead of a game between Sweden and Belgium.

The Group F European qualifier match between the two countries was suspended at half-time “due to incidents,” the Belgian side posted on social media accounts.

Supporters at the King Baudouin stadium in the Belgian capital were told to remain inside the ground following an announcement that the players would not return for the second half.

Sweden’s football association said Belgian police had told supporters “to stay in the arena for security reasons”.

“Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels this evening, it has been decided after consultation with the two teams and the local police authorities, that the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden is abandoned,” UEFA said on its website.

Belgian media reported that Swedish players did not want to continue the game after the attack.

The FAI said it “wishes to extend our deepest condolences to the Swedish fans, players and officials following tonight’s horrific incidents in Brussels”. 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.” 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said the attack was “despicable” and vowed unity against terrorism.

“Tonight, my thoughts are with the families of the two victims of the despicable attack in Brussels,” the European Commission president said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“I extend my heartfelt support to the Belgian police, so they swiftly apprehend the suspect. Together, we stand united against terror.”

With reporting by Press Association and © AFP 2023

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