BRUSSELS: A knife-wielding man stabbed two female police officers in the Belgian city of Liege, stole their service weapons and shot them and a bystander dead in an attack Tuesday that prosecutors fear could be terror-related.
Justice Minister Koen Geens said the assailant, who was later killed by police, was released from prison on a two-day leave Monday. Geens described him as a multiple repeat offender who had been incarcerated since 2003.
Liege Police Chief Christian Beaupere said at a news conference that the slain officers were 45-years-old and 53-years-old, the latter the mother of twins. Four other officers were wounded in the attack, one of them seriously with a severed femoral artery.
State broadcaster RTBF identified the suspect as Benjamin Herman. Herman, a Belgian national born in 1982, had a criminal record that included theft, assault and drug offenses, RTBF reported.
Liege prosecutors’ spokesman Philippe Dulieu said the man crept up on the two officers from behind carrying a knife and stabbed them several times.
“He then took their weapons. He used the weapons on the officers, who died,” Dulieu told reporters. The two police handguns had a total of 17 bullets.
Dulieu said the attacker then shot dead a 22-year-old man in a vehicle that was just leaving a parking place outside a nearby high school. The attacker then took a woman hostage inside the school.
“Liege police intervened. He came out firing at police, wounding a number of them, notably in the legs. He was shot dead,” the spokesman said.
A senior official at the federal prosecutor’s office told that.there are indications it could be a terror attack.”
Belgian police and military have been on alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people at the Brussels airport and subway system in 2016.