Photo Courtesy: Belgian Federal Police
Two police officers and a bystander have been shot and killed in the Belgian city of Liege, that police are treating as a terror attack.
The man was identified by public broadcaster RTBF as a petty criminal on day release on Monday from a local prison, when he killed the two female officers and a male car passenger.
Officials said the man attacked officers Soraya Belkacemi, 53, and Lucille Garcia, 45, from behind with a knife described at about 10:30am (local time) on a boulevard in the city near the German border.
The man then seized one of their handguns and shot both women dead before walking down the street and shooting dead 22-year-old Cyril Vangriecken, while he sat in the passenger seat of a parked car.
He then made his way to a high school and took a female employee hostage where a gun battle broke out with armed police.
Several police officers were wounded before the attacker was killed in the shoot-out.
Officials said it was being treated as a terrorist attack, while media reports said the man shouted “Allahu Akbar”, meaning God is great in Arabic.
“The event is classed as a terrorist incident,” public prosecutor Philippe Dulieu told a news conference.
A Belgian politician said the man was on an anti-terrorist police watch list.
Investigators were looking into whether he had converted to Islam and had been radicalised in jail.
“The goal of the assassin was to target the police,” Liege police chief Christian Beaupere told a news conference.
Interior minister Jan Jambon said the national crisis centre said it was monitoring events but it had not raised its alert level.
The centre said a security cordon had been established around the area and urged people to stay away.
“It (terrorism) is one of the questions on the table,” a spokesperson for the centre said.
“But for the moment all scenarios are open.”
Mr Jambon said his prayers were with the victims.
“Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act,” he said.
“We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened.”
Brussels had been on high alert since past Islamic State attacks in Paris and Brussels in the past three years, in which 130 people died in Paris while 32 were killed in Brussels in 2016.