The knifeman who fatally stabbed a Brussels police officer before being shot and arrested was already on a waiting list maintained by the Belgian terrorism control agency, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Investigators told reporters that the suspect “Yassine M.”, who was born in Brussels in 1990, had shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “God is greater” – when he lunged at two officers in a patrol car on Thursday.
One of the officers, identified only as 29-year-old Thomas M., was stabbed in the throat and died shortly after. The second 23-year-old officer underwent surgery for injuries to the right arm and will survive.
The federal prosecutor has referred the case to an investigating judge as an alleged “murder and attempted murder committed in a terrorist context”.
A second police patrol intervened during the incident, which took place near Gare du Nord station in the Belgian capital in the early evening, and the attacker was shot and wounded and is being held in hospital.
Earlier in the day, the suspect had turned himself in to a Brussels police station and made what the head of the Brussels prosecutor’s office, Tim De Wolf, called “incoherent remarks”.
“He spoke about hatred of the police and asked to be psychologically cared for,” said De Wolf.
Yassine M. was taken by officers to the psychiatric emergency department of a Brussels hospital, but was not arrested or detained because, according to officials, he did not meet the criteria for involuntary admission.
“He was voluntary,” said De Wolf, explaining that the police had left the suspect in the hospital under the care of nurses.
“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,” said the Brussels prosecutor’s office.
Yassine M. was imprisoned between 2013 and 2019 for “common law crimes”, but was also on a list prepared by the Belgian terror observatory, the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM), which monitors extremism.
Brussels is currently trialling those accused of involvement in the 2016 Islamic State attacks that killed 32 people at the city’s main airport and a busy metro station.
The trial is the largest ever held before a Belgian jury, with 960 civilian plaintiffs represented and the sprawling former NATO headquarters converted into a high-security courthouse on the outskirts of the city.
Between 2016 and 2018, Belgium witnessed several deadly Islamic terror attacks against the police or military.
The last attack classified as a terrorist offense took place in the city of Liège in May 2018, when a radicalized assailant shot and killed two police officers and a student before being shot by officers.
The OCAM watchdog’s overall threat level is currently set at “moderate” – or two on a scale of one to four, with one being “low” and four “very severe”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)
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