Aftermath of the 22 March Brussels attacks. Photo Credit: Press Association
Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine
08 Aug 2016
The man, identified by Belgian police as an Algerian-born 33-year-old with the initials 'KB', was shot at the scene outside a police station in Charleroi on Saturday and later died.
He shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the assault. A statement by the IS-affiliated Aamaq News Agency said the attack was in response to the "crusader coalition"'s military campaign against IS and its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Police say he had been in Belgium since 2012 and was known to the authorities but only for "minor common" offences and had no known terrorist connections.
The judicial authorities said both officers had shown "great courage" in their attempt to stop the man.
Two house searches took place in the Charleroi area on Sunday night in connection with the attack.
Belgium has now opened a terrorism probe into the attack which happened outside the main police station in Charleroi, around 60 kilometres (40 miles) south of Brussels.
It left one of the policewoman with "deep wounds to the face" while the other was slightly injured. She later underwent surgery but her injuries are not life threatening.
Belgium's unit for terror threat analysis coordination said it would keep the alert level unchanged at level three on a scale of four, meaning an attack is viewed as "possible and likely."
However, with regard to attacks specifically on police, the level has been increased to 2+ level, requiring "particular vigilance."
The new threat level means officers have to wear bullet-free vests and are permitted to take a gun home if they so wish. They are also asked not to wear a uniform when commuting to and from work.
Police trade unions in Belgium had asked for the police terror threat to be lifted to 3 after Saturday's attack and say they are "not entirely happy" with the situation.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel cut short his summer holiday in the south of France to attend a hastily convened emergency meeting of the National Security Council session in Brussels yesterday (sun) where he discussed the security situation with security experts and other key ministers.
Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union's institutions on 22 March, killing 32 people.
According to RTL, the attacker was an illegal immigrant and had been given two orders to leave Belgium. He lived with his brother in a Charleroi suburb.
It also emerged that the most seriously injured policewoman is of Muslim origin.
Michel told a news conference on Sunday that the attack was deemed a case of "attempted terrorist murder."
Belgian defense minister Steven Vandeput said the government would meet on Monday to determine if additional measures should be taken to protect police buildings and staff.
Charleroi Mayor Paul Magnette said the checkpoint outside the police station had succeeded in preventing the attacker from reaching the building and causing more havoc.
Magnette said Belgian authorities are now discussing whether security for police facilities and officers should be increased.
In a separate incident on Sunday, Belgian police arrested a man with a machete in Liege. Police said he was of Turkish origin, did not use the machete and was not previously known to them.
Khalid el-Bakraoui, one of the suicide bombers who detonated an explosive belt at a Belgian metro station - killing 14 - is thought to have rented a flat at Charleroi, which was used as a meeting point by the Belgian cell taking part in the Paris attacks.