Lone gunman kills one, wounds 64 in Belgian city attack

13th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

A lone gunman opened fire on a square packed with children and Christmas shoppers in the eastern Belgian city of Liege Tuesday, killing one person before turning the gun on himself.

Another 64 people were wounded in the lunch-hour attack, public prosecutor Daniel Reynders said, adding that the gunman was among the two dead.

He said it was not a terrorist incident.

Belgium's Home Affairs Minister Joelle Milquet broke off European Union talks and was headed for Liege after the attack.

The shooting took place around noon on Saint-Lambert square, home to the town's courthouse and located near a busy Christmas market.

Some reports said it was a foiled bid to rescue a suspect from the courthouse.

There was much confusion over the events, with initial reports of more than one gunman.

Residents had earlier told local television that shots were fired across the square by gunmen posted on the rooftop of a bakery shop and grenades hurled at bus shelters and into the courthouse.

Reports had also said that two to three gunmen armed with either explosive flash grenades or killer defensive grenades were involved.

"The city centre is completely cordonned off. People are sheltering in shops or in buildings. Police are in position," said a town hall employee contacted by AFP who asked not to be identified.

"Luckily the mayor had postponed the opening of the Christmas market due to bad weather and high winds. Otherwise many more would have died," the source added.

One of two or more assailants threw grenades into the courthouse while another was hurled at a bus shelter, RTL-TV1 said.

One assailant was initially reported to have fled inside the courthouse, where members of a crack police squad had taken up positions.

Belga news agency said several "suspect" objects were found on the square and that police bomb defusal experts were on the way.

© 2011 AFP

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