Following a terrorist attack that took place yesterday evening, killing two Swedes, possibly in town for the Belgium – Sweden football match, Belgium’s Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA) has raised the terror threat level for Brussels to 4, the highest possible and the first time it has reached this level since the attacks of 2016. The rest of the country remains at level 3. Although the suspect was shot dead by police on Tuesday morning, alerts remain in place.
1. Travel advice
Nationally, people are advised to work from home, if possible, and not travel to or within Brussels. Those who must leave their homes should remain highly vigilant. Police presence has been increased on the streets and the measures and risk level will be reevaluated at 3pm.
Public transport remains mostly operational under a regular schedule. The Koning Baudouin and Heysel metro stations, closest to the attack site, reopened this morning after being closed yesterday evening. Trams have also resumed normal departures after being suspended between Belgica and Lemonnier. Brussels’ public transport network, STIB, has ensured a return to normal schedules, but still advises passengers to remain highly vigilant.
Brussels Airport, which was one of the targets of the 2016 bombings, remains open, under a threat level 3. “Additional access controls are in place and there is an increased police presence. Airport operations continue as planned. At the moment, there is no operational impact”, the airport said in a statement.
Internationally, the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all non-essential travel to Brussels, while those already in the city should avoid the area of the incident and follow the advice of local authorities.
2. The attack
Yesterday evening, around 7:15 pm, a man shot and killed two Swedes close to Place Sainctelette, in the commune of Molenbeek, north-west of central Brussels. Abdeslam Lassoued, a Tunisian man allegedly living illegally in the commune of Schaerbeek, was soon after confirmed as a suspect. In a video posted on social media, he took responsibility for the attack, claiming he was “murdering infidels” and “avenging the Muslims”.
According to Politico, Sweden has been increasingly targeted by Islam extremists after repeated burnings of the Quran taking place in the country over the summer. The Belgium – Sweden football match that was taking place was suspended at half-time as the news of the attack broke out.
Police received a sighting report early Tuesday morning and found Lassoued at a café close to the building he had been searched for the night before, reports Belgian media rtbf. A shootout between the suspect and police ended with Lassoued getting shot in the chest and several others injured. The weapon used in the attack was found on the scene.
The Federal Prosecutor’s Office confirmed around 10:30 this morning that the perpetrator of last night’s shooting was indeed Lassoued and he died in intensive care after being taken to the hospital following the shootout.