Brussels has been brought to a standstill after a gunman claiming to be a member of ISIS opened fire on a group of Swedish football fans – killing two people.
The gunman is said to have begun shooting at the men as they passed through Boulevard d’Ypres just a few minutes north of the city’s famous Grand Plaza.
The men were wearing their national team’s jerseys and were on their way to the match at King Baudouin Stadium. A third person is said to be seriously injured.
The alleged attacker used the name ‘Slayem Slouma’ to boast about the two murders on Facebook, adding he sought to avenge the killing of a six-year-old US-Palestinian boy.
Speaking in Arabic, he celebrated the slaughter, and said he committed them in the name of ISIS.
The shooter remains at large. Police confirmed that the man in the video – wearing an orange jacket, black scarf, yellow baseball hat and heavy black beard – was the one they were searching for in relation to the attack.
The match between Belgium and Sweden has now been suspended, with players and fans locked inside the stadium. The city’s terror alert has been raised to a level 4 – its highest.
The OCAD anti-terror center also said that the terror alert for the rest of the country was raised to its second-highest level.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo suggested the attack was linked to ‘terrorism’ and convened an emergency meeting of top Cabinet ministers.
‘I have just offered my sincere condolences to @SwedishPM following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,’ De Croo said. He added on X, formerly known as Twitter, ‘As close partners the fight against terrorism is a joint one.’
It was not immediately clear if the shooting was linked to the international uproar over the Israel-Hamas war.
‘A horrible shooting in Brussels, and the perpetrator is actively being tracked down,’ said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, adding that she was joining government talks at the National Crisis Center.
Laura Demullier of the OCAD center said in an interview that the highest priority for authorities now was to get thousands of football fans attending the Belgium-Sweden soccer match safely out of the stadium where the match had been abandoned half way through
Harrowing footage of the attack taken by bystanders shows a man shooting several times using a large weapon while shouting in Arabic, as members of the public run for their lives.
Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reports the gunman used an automatic rifle and fled the scene on his scooter.
He is reported to have said he was avenging the stabbing of six-year-old US-Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was knifed to death in Plainfield, Illinois, on Saturday morning.
Wadea was stabbed 26 times and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed over a dozen times, by a man allegedly screaming ‘You Muslims must die!’
Joseph Czuba, 71, is charged with murdering the boy.
The gunman was travelling on a moped, and was heard to shout ‘Allahu Akabar’ – Arab for God is the Greatest – by witnesses.
An investigating source said: ‘He was also screaming about carrying out a revenge attack. He was shooting at various people, and hit a number of them. This had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.’
The source said there was also a video circulating on social media in which the attacker explains having to ‘take revenge’ by killing three people from Sweden.
The suspect, who was wearing a crash helmet and fluorescent jacket, was brandishing a ‘Kalashnikov-style’ weapon, and had also fired at man in the lobby of a nearby building.
The emergency services arrived in large numbers within minutes, but no suspect was arrested.
The investigating source said: ‘The alleged perpetrator has posted a video in which he is a member of ISIS’.
The claim was also published by Sudinfo, one of the largest news outlets in Belgium, which said the Facebook post shows the man ‘boasting about having murdered infidels.’
It adds: ‘In his very violent speech, he said he had shot two people to avenge the Muslims and that we live and die for our religion.’
A Belgium government spokesman said representatives of the country’s security services, public prosecutor’s office and cabinet had gathered at a Crisis Centre, to discuss the terrorist motive.
‘All partners have indeed been called together,’ said Laura Demullier, spokesperson for the state Crisis Center.
‘Everyone is asked to come here as soon as possible to discuss the next move.’