Attack kills 4 in Belgium
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Rescuers evacuate injured people at the Place Saint Lambert. REUTERS photoA lunch-hour attack yesterday in a busy central square in the eastern Belgian city of Liege left 75 people injured and four dead, including the gunman, a prosecutor said.
The lone gunman opened fire on a square packed with children and Christmas shoppers in Liege, killing three people before turning the gun on himself. More than 70 people were also wounded in the lunch-hour attack, public prosecutor Daniel Reynders said.
Reynders said the gunman, Nordine Amrani, 32, was among the four people dead, along with a 15-year-old who died instantly, and a 17-year-old boy and a 75-year-old woman who died later in the hospital. The country’s federal crisis center said it was neither a terrorist incident nor was linked to a pending criminal trial. “It was a lone gunman,” the center’s Benoit Ramacker told Agence France-Presse. “We’re investigating all avenues.” Belgium’s Interior Minister Joelle Milquet broke off EU talks and immediately headed for Liege after the attack, as did newly named Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. The attack sent terrified residents running for their lives, and hours later groups of people sat weeping on sidewalks across the windy city amid the screech of ambulance sirens and the roar of helicopters hovering overhead.
The shooting took place around noon on Saint-Lambert square, home to the courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market in the town of 196,000. Some reports said it was a foiled bid to rescue a suspect from the courthouse, but judicial sources said Amrani acted alone. The sources said police had raided Amrani’s Liege home recently seeking cannabis plants but had found arms instead. In 2008 he was sentenced to almost five years behind bars for illegal possession of arms and growing marijuana.
There was much confusion over the early details of the events, with initial reports citing more than one gunman. Journalist Nicolas Gilenne told AFP he had just left the courthouse where he was covering a trial when the attack began. “He wanted to hurt as many people as possible” he said.