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Belgium Stabbing Suspect Was On List Of Potential Extremists

BRUSSELS, Nov 11 (AP): Belgian authorities said on Friday that a lone assailant who killed one police officer and wounded another in a stabbing attack had been on a list of potential extremists.

The suspect, who had served six years in prison for common-law crimes, had gone to a police station early on Thursday to express hatred for them, but couldn’t be arrested before he launched his stabbing attack on two police officers that evening.

“The man was on the list of OCAD,” said Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, referring to the Belgian organisation that assesses the terrorism threats in the nation.

Brussels prosecutor spokeswoman Sarah Durant said the suspect had made “unhinged remarks” during a discussion with officers hours before the attack. Since he voluntarily asked for psychological help, he was not arrested and was instead sent to a hospital, which he left soon after.

After the stabbings, the suspect was almost immediately shot by another police official who had rushed to the scene. Wounded, he was taken to a hospital.

Eric Van der Sypt of the federal prosecutor’s office said that investigators were looking into whether the attack took place in a “terrorist context.” The federal prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press it took over the case because there is “a suspicion of a terror attack.”

According to Belgian media, the attacker shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Arabic phrase for “God is great,” during the attack, which occurred around 7:15 pm on Thursday.

Belgian authorities kept the overall terrorist threat level at 2 out of a possible 4, meaning the risk of an attack was “medium.”

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo posted a message of condolences to the family and friends of the dead officer.

“Our police officers risk their lives every day to ensure the safety of our citizens,” he said.

“Today’s tragedy demonstrates this once again.”

Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said she was in contact with the Brussels mayor, police chief and security services to coordinate the response to the attack.

“Such violence against our people is unacceptable,” she said.

Authorities came under immediate criticism for not arresting the suspect when he made his initial threats to the police early Thursday, but Durant said procedures stipulate that he had to be taken by police to a hospital since he had asked for psychological help himself.

“Police remained there until hospital staff took over,” she said. A few hours later, when police checked on his whereabouts, “it appears that the person had left the hospital.”

The attack touched a nerve in a nation that has been hit by several terror attacks in the past decade, including suicide bombings in 2016 that killed 32 people and injured hundreds more in the Brussels subway and airport.

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