Two Belgian police hurt by machete-wielding assailant shouting ‘Allahu akbar’
A machete-wielding man shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is the greatest) wounded two policewomen in southern Belgium on Saturday before being shot dead, in what appeared to be the latest in a string of jihadist attacks in Europe.
The attack outside the main police station in the city of Charleroi, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) south of Brussels, left one of the policewomen with “deep wounds to the face” while the other was slightly injured, Belga news agency said.
Charleroi police said the attacker was shot and killed, while the two victims were out of danger.
The assailant “hasn’t been identified yet”, Prime Minister Charles Michel told the TV station RTL-TVI.
“But it seems once more to be an attack with a terrorist connotation.”
Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a subway station near the European Union’s institutions on March 22, killing 32 people.
The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which controls large areas of territory in Iraq and Syria and has claimed numerous terror attacks in Europe in the last year.
Charleroi police spokesman David Quinaux told RTL-TVI that the assailant arrived outside the police station at around 4pm (1400 GMT).
“He immediately took a machete out of the sports bag he was carrying and violently struck at the faces of the two policewomen who were on guard duty, shouting ‘Allahu akbar’,” said Quinaux.
A third policewoman shot the assailant, who died later in hospital.
Belgian Interior Minister Jean Jambon condemned a “disgusting act”.
The country’s terror threat level was assessed in the light of the attack, but was left “unchanged for the time being,” Jambon said on Twitter.
It currently stands at level three, meaning a “possible or probable” threat, on a scale of four.
– Anti-terror measures –
Belgian police have carried out dozens of anti-terror raids since the November 2015 attacks in Paris, planned in Belgium and involving Belgian extremists, which left 130 people dead.
Security was ratcheted up further for Belgium’s July 21 national day celebrations after a truck attack that killed 85 people in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day, July 14.
Operations include the arrest on June 25 of a man in the town of Verviers and another at Tournai.
According to the Belgian media, one had been planning to blow himself up during a public screening of one of the Euro 2016 football matches.
On July 30, two people were arrested, one in Mons and the other in Liege, on suspicion of plotting attacks, according to the federal prosecutor’s office.
Belgium is the main source per head of population of jihadist recruits going from EU countries to fight with IS in Syria, causing deep concern that they will return home battle-hardened and even more radicalised.
The interior ministry said 457 Belgian men and women had gone or tried to join jihadists in the Middle East, including 90 who are missing or dead.
Belgium launched its first attacks against IS in Iraq in late 2014 as part of a US-led coalition. It joined a similar anti-IS operation in Syria this year.