Posted on May 29, 2018

Cops Shoot Dead Belgian Gunman as He Opens Fire on Them After Killing Two Policewomen and a Man

Sara Malm and Peter Allen, Daily Mail, May 29, 2018

This is the moment Belgian special forces took down a suspected terrorist who had shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he shot and killed two policewomen and a 22-year-old civilian.

After carrying out three brutal murders this morning, the attacker took a female cleaner hostage in a nearby high school.

The footage shows him running out of the school with two guns blazing before he was shot dead in the street. Several officers were injured in the gun battle.

The man, who is understood to have been on a day release from a nearby prison, had approached the female officers at around 10.30am, slashed their throats and stabbed them several times from behind, before disarming them.

He has been named as Benjamin Herman, 36, an alleged Muslim convert who had been radicalised in prison.

The victims have been named as police officers Lucile Garcia and Soraya Belkacemi, and 22-year-old Cyril Vangriecken, who was shot dead sitting in a parked car with his mother.

According to Belgian broadcaster RTBF, Herman was a violent drug dealer let out on day-release from a local prison on Monday, but never returned.

RTBF claimed investigators are looking into whether he had converted to Islam and a prison service source said he had become increasingly close to radicalised Islamist inmates, was ‘psychologically unstable’ and wanted to ‘carry out attacks when released’.

He had convictions for robbery, assault and drug dealing, but was not on a terrorist watch list.

Herman, a Belgian national, had been meant to be heading to his home town of Rochefort, 40 miles from Liege, despite prison officers saying he was still ‘extremely violent’.

Following his release on Monday afternoon, he is thought to have robbed a jewellery shop in his home town of Rochefort.

Herman is also currently the prime suspect for the murder of a drug dealer in the town of Marche-en-Famenne, in Luxemburg, which was committed on Monday night, just a few hours later.

Today, he is alleged to have ‘hunted down’ police officers Garcia and Belkacemi while they were on routine road traffic duties, ‘checking parking meters’ in the town of Liege. Garcia was newly married to a local police chief, and Belkacemi was a mother of 13-year-old twins.

Initial reports suggested he shot them after being stopped for a document check, however prosecutors now say he crept up behind them, and then cut their throats with a knife, while also stabbing them numerous times.

Herman then took the officers’ side arms and shot them both in the head, making sure they were dead.

Local news website reported that he had shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he fired on on Liege’s central Boulevard d’Avroy, citing police sources, but this has not yet been confirmed by officials.

Videos posted on social media showed people scurrying for safety on Liege’s central boulevard d’Avroy with shots and sirens being heard in the background.

One video show emergency services and police officers in body armour moving into position, another sees the two police officers shot dead in the street.

Minutes later, anti-terrorist special forces police could be seen surrounding the area, which went into lock down.

Philippe Dulieu, spokesman for the Liege prosecutor’s office, told reporters the man had come out firing from the high school, before he was ‘neutralised’.

‘Armed with a knife, the suspect followed and attacked two police officers, and used their own firearms to kill them,’ Mr Dulieu told a news conference.

‘He continued on foot, attacking a parked vehicle where he opened fire on a 22-year-old man in the passenger seat. The young man died.

‘He then continued and entered the Leonie de Waha school. He took a woman working there as hostage. Police intervened, he came out firing on the police officers, wounding a number of them, notably in the legs, before he was killed.’

All students in the school were successfully evacuated, and the female hostage released without being caused any harm.

Officials say they are now considering the attack on Tuesday morning to have been an act of terrorism.

Catherine Collignon, a spokesman for Liege prosecutors, confirmed ‘four deaths in total’, with two other police officers seriously wounded.

She confirmed that ‘terrorism’ was currently considered the principal motivation for the attack by those leading the judicial enquiry.

Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Belgium’s Federal Crisis Centre was monitoring the situation.

‘Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act. We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened,’ Jambon wrote on Twitter.

The crisis centre said a security cordon had been set up around the area and urged people to stay away.

French President Emmanuel Macron has condemned the ‘terrible’ suspected terror attack and expressed the ‘solidarity of the French people with the Belgian people’ after hosting an international peace conference on Libya.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also expressed her sympathies in a tweet posted on Tuesday afternoon, saying: ‘My thoughts are with the victims of today’s cowardly attack in Belgium and their grieving families. The UK stands resolute with our Belgian allies against terror.’

Liege, an industrial city close to the German border in the French-speaking Wallonia region, was also the scene of a shooting in 2011.

A gunman killed four people and wounded over 100 before turning the gun on himself.

Belgium has been on high alert since a Brussels-based ISIS terror cell was involved in attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people, and Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died.

The UK Foreign Office advises British citizens that ‘terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Belgium.’

The Foreign Office’s travel advice website adds that ‘attacks could happen anywhere, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners’.