Brussels police have detained a suspect believed to be responsible for the killing of two Swedish football fans in an Islamic extremist attack. The man was apprehended after a firefight in the Schaerbeek commune of the Belgian capital, following an hours-long manhunt.
According to reports from local media, the suspect was shot in the chest during the exchange of gunfire. He was then taken to the hospital, where he suffered a cardiac arrest in the ambulance but was successfully resuscitated. The authorities have not yet provided detailed information about the events leading up to the arrest.
The incident occurred during a Euro 2024 qualifying match on Monday evening when the attacker targeted people attending the game. As a result, the match was called off at half-time. In addition to the two fatalities, the assailant also injured a third person at a different location in Brussels.
Videos circulated online showed the attacker, wearing an orange jacket and riding a scooter, armed with an assault rifle. In a video that he apparently recorded and posted online, the perpetrator identified himself as Abdesalem Al Guilani, claiming to be a supporter of the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). He stated that his actions were in retaliation for the perceived crimes against Muslims.
Belgium’s Justice Minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne, revealed that the suspect was a 45-year-old Tunisian man who had sought asylum in Belgium in November 2019. He had been accused of people-smuggling and was residing illegally in the country, according to the minister’s statement during a news conference on Monday.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo expressed his condolences to the Swedish people for the loss of two of their nationals. He condemned the terrorist attack, characterizing it as an act fueled by “blind hatred.”
The arrest of the suspected perpetrator brings some relief to the city of Brussels, which has been on high alert following the incident. Belgian authorities have declared a “terror alert” and are taking necessary security measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.
The incident serves as a reminder of the ongoing threat posed by extremist ideologies and the importance of vigilance in combating terrorism. European countries continue to face challenges in dealing with these radicalized individuals and preventing attacks.
As investigations into the attack unfold, authorities will likely focus on uncovering the suspect’s network and determining if he acted alone or in collaboration with others. Efforts will also be made to enhance security measures and intelligence sharing to prevent such incidents in the future.
The international community stands in solidarity with Sweden and Belgium during this difficult time, as they mourn the loss of innocent lives and work towards healing and resilience.