HomeWorld NewsBelgium stabbing suspect was on list of possible extremists

Belgium stabbing suspect was on list of possible extremists

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Belgian authorities said on Friday that the only assailant who killed a police officer and wounded another in a knife attack was on a counterterrorism list of possible extremists.

The Belgian suspect, who had served six years in prison for common law offences, had gone to a police station early Thursday to express his hatred towards them, but could not be arrested before he launched his stabbing attack on two police officers that night.

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“The man was on the OCAD list,” said Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, referring to the organization that assesses terrorist threats in Belgium.

Van der Sypt said the suspect shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” during the stabbing, which occurred around the usually busy Brussels Nord station just after the evening rush hour.

Police attend the scene of an incident in Brussels, Thursday, November 10, 2022.
(AP Photo/Sylvain Plazy)

The suspect was identified as Yassine M, born in Brussels in 1990. His common crimes landed him behind bars between 2013 and 2019.

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Brussels prosecutor’s spokeswoman Sarah Durant said the suspect had made “deranged comments” during an argument with officers hours before the attack. As he voluntarily asked for psychological help, he was not arrested but sent to a hospital, from which he was released shortly after.

Belgian police officers stand in a cordoned off area where two police colleagues were stabbed Thursday, in Brussels, Friday, November 11, 2022.

Belgian police officers stand in a cordoned off area where two police colleagues were stabbed Thursday, in Brussels, Friday, November 11, 2022.
(AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

After the stabbings, the suspect was shot and wounded almost immediately by another police officer who had rushed to the scene. The attacker’s condition was not disclosed, but authorities said he was still hospitalized Friday and could not be questioned.

Belgian authorities kept the overall terrorist threat level at two possible out of four, meaning the risk of an attack was “medium.”

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo posted a message of condolences to the family and friends of the dead officer.

“Our police officers risk their lives every day to ensure the safety of our citizens,” he said. “Today’s tragedy demonstrates this once again.”

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said she was in contact with Brussels’ mayor, police chief and security services to coordinate the response to the attack.

“Such violence against our people is unacceptable,” he said.

Police attend the scene of an incident in Brussels, Thursday, November 10, 2022. One police officer was killed and another injured in a knife attack in Brussels, which a Belgian judicial official says is suspected to be related to The terrorism.  The suspected attacker was shot and "neutralized" after the stabbing on Thursday night, Belgian police said.

Police attend the scene of an incident in Brussels, Thursday, November 10, 2022. One police officer was killed and another injured in a knife attack in Brussels, which a Belgian judicial official says is suspected to be related to The terrorism. The suspected attacker was shot and “neutralized” after the stabbing on Thursday night, Belgian police said.
(AP Photo/Sylvain Plazy)

Authorities were immediately criticized for not arresting the suspect when he made his initial threats to police earlier Thursday, but Durant said procedures stipulate that police had to take him to a hospital as he himself had requested psychological help.

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“The police stayed there until the hospital staff took over,” he said. A few hours later, when the police verified his whereabouts, “the person had apparently left the hospital.”

The attack struck a nerve in a nation that has been hit by several attacks in the past decade, including suicide bombings in 2016 that killed 32 people and injured hundreds more on the Brussels metro and airport.

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