Federal prosecutors are investigating the shooting deaths of two police officers and a third person Tuesday in the eastern Belgian city of Liege in what police said was an attack carried out by a man who was on an anti-terrorist police watchlist.
The gunman repeatedly stabbed the officers, both women, before shooting them with their own handguns in the morning outside a cafe on a major thoroughfare. He then fled to a high school where he briefly took a hostage, officials said.
“Armed with a knife, the suspect followed and attacked two police officers and used their own firearms to kill them,” prosecutor Phlippe Dulieu said at a news conference.
Liege police chief Christian Beaupere said “the assassin’s objective was to attack the police” and added four police officers were also wounded.
A spokesman for the Liege prosecutors, Catherine Collignon, told AFP the third victim was a motorist who was driving in the area.
The shooter, who was killed by police, was released from prison on Monday, according to the Belgian broadcaster RTBF. The broadcaster said the suspect was known for committing minor infractions.
Lawmaker George Dallemagne confirmed the attacker was placed on the police watchlist after being radicalized in jail.
“The supervision of radicalized prisoners remains tragically flawed,” Dallemagne wrote on Twitter.
Belgium’s national crisis center, which placed the country on high alert after Islamic State attacks in Brussels and Paris in the past three years, did not raise its alert level Tuesday, an indication the attacker acted alone.
The shootings occurred as Belgium is on high alert after a series of attacks in the capital of Brussels over the past few years for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility.