An illegal migrant ISIS fanatic who shot dead two football fans in Brussels targeted the Swedes because of the Koran-burning in Stockholm, an expert has claimed.
Abdesalem Lassoued, 45, a known terror suspect, was shot dead by Belgian police this morning after he killed two Swedish football fans with an automatic rifle last night.
He targeted the two Swedes in their 60s and 70s because of the ‘desecration of the Koran which took place in Stockholm in recent months’, terror expert Claude Moniquet told French newspaper CNews today.
Activists like Salwan Momika have staged several protests in Sweden’s capital this year, as part of which they burned, kicked or stomped on copies of the Koran.
These stunts have provoked outrage in countries like Iraq, Iran and Turkey and have now resulted in the deadly attack in Brussels, according to Moniquet.
Video shows Abdesalem Lassoued dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket and carrying a gun driving through the streets of Brussels last night
Activists like Salwan Momika (pictured during one of his Koran burning stunts above) have staged several protests in Sweden’s capital this year, as part of which they burned, kicked or stomped on copies of the Koran
These stunts have provoked outrage in countries like Iraq, Iran (protesters pictured above) and Turkey and have now resulted in the deadly attack in Brussels, according to Moniquet
Lassoued had ‘alluded to the Middle East and the situation in Gaza, without mentioning Gaza, but speaking of his “Palestinian brothers who are suffering”,’ Moniquet said.
The suspected gunmen was shot dead after he was cornered inside a café in the Brussels neighbourhood of Schaerbeek at 8am, shooting him in the chest.
An ambulance was later seen taking a wounded Lassoued to hospital, while his scooter he is said to have used to flee the terror attack was towed away.
The automatic rifle that Lassoued had used to kill the two Swedish football fans last night was also found on his person.
There were conflicting local media reports about the condition of the attacker, with some saying he was wounded but survived the police shooting.
However, Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden later confirmed Lassoued had been shot and killed by police during his arrest today. ‘The perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Brussels has been identified and has died,’ Verlinden said.
Prime Minister Alexander de Croo earlier said the suspect was of Tunisian origin and had been living in the country illegally before launching what he called a brutal terrorist attack.
Belgian police today arrested a suspected gunman following an intensive manhunt for an ISIS fanatic who shot dead two Swedish football fans in Brussels with an automatic rifle in a terrorist attack. Pictured: Police at the scene
Police opened fire during the arrest, a spokesman for the Belgian prosecutors’ service, Eric Van Duyse, said, without confirming a report by broadcaster RTBF that the suspect was wounded. Pictured: Police at the scene this morning
View of the crime scene on the aftermath of the shooting in Brussels on Tuesday, with blood seen on the white walls
Many Sweden fans at King Baudouin Stadium were tearful and clung to each other for support, while others checked their mobile phones for the latest information
Lassoued opened fire on a group of Swedish football fans in a taxi last night as they passed through Boulevard d’Ypres just a few minutes north of the city’s famous Grand Plaza ahead of Belgium’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Sweden.
Several people fled into an apartment building after hearing the gunshots, but Lassoued followed them and opened fire again in the entrance hall in an attack he said was to avenge the killing of a six-year-old US-Palestinian boy.
Disturbing video shows the attacker on a motorbike stalking people and shooting them, with other images circulating online showing the body of one person inside a taxi.
Dramatic video later appeared to show the gunman, who was dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket, fleeing on a motorbike while being tailed by a member of the public.
‘The terrorist attack that happened yesterday was committed with total cowardice, the attacker chose as a target two Swedish football fans,’ de Croo told a news conference, adding that a third person – a taxi driver – was seriously wounded.
‘Terrorism strikes indiscriminately,’ he said. ‘It aims to sow fear, mistrust and division in our free societies. Terrorists must know that they will never achieve their goals.
‘They will never make us bend. Their hatred and violence only prove their powerlessness.’
Sweden expressed its devastation over the shooting – which occurred just before a Belgium-Sweden football match Monday evening – and European leaders were quick to offer their solidarity.
Sweden has been at the centre of a bitter row this year with Muslim countries after multiple burnings of the Koran, Islam’s holy book.
Following the incident the alleged attacker used the name ‘Slayem Slouma’ to boast about the two murders on Facebook, adding he sought to avenge the killing of a six-year-old US-Palestinian boy.
Speaking in Arabic in the video, Lassoued celebrated the slaughter, and said he ‘was inspired by the Islamic State’ terror group, prosecutors said.
In response to the attack, Belgian authorities raised the terror alert for Brussels to level four or ‘very serious’ – the highest – and level three nationally.
IKEA also announced eight of its department stores will have strengthened security following the terror attack, Sudinfo reports.
Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborn said Lassoued, an asylum seeker, was convicted in Tunisia ‘for common law offences’, but was not reported for a terrorist risk.
The attacker, who unsuccessfully sought asylum in Belgium in November 2019, was known to police in connection with people smuggling and illegal residence, Quickenborne added.
Prosecutors said the attacker in his video had indicated the Swedish nationality of his victims was a motivation, but there appeared to be no links with the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.
‘Devastated by the news of two Swedish football supporters murdered in Brussels tonight and a third person being seriously wounded. All my thoughts are with their families and loved ones,’ Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.
‘Swedish authorities work closely with their Belgian partners to find the murderer,’ he added on social media.
The Swedish victims were wearing their team’s jerseys and were believed to be on their way to a match at King Baudouin Stadium, where Sweden were playing Belgium. A third person is seriously injured.
Local media have named the suspect as 45-year-old Abdesalem Lassoued (pictured)
A police van drives near the Eugene Verboekhovenplein in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels on where the suspected perpetrator of the attack in Brussels was shot during a police intervention in a cafe
The man is reported to have said he was avenging the stabbing of six-year-old US-Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was knifed to death in Plainfield, Illinois, on Saturday morning
The shooting took place in Boulevard d’Ypres just a few minutes north of the city’s famous Grand Plaza
View of the crime scene on the aftermath of the shooting in Brussels on Tuesday
Police at the site of a shooting incident in the Boulevard d’Ypres in Brussels
Belgian police and forensic examiners work at the scene of a shooting in the Boulevard d’Ypres
As news spread of the killings, the Group F European qualifier match was abandoned at half-time and some 35,000 fans were evacuated from the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels.
Officers provided extra protection for Swedish nationals at the game, escorting Sweden’s national players directly to the airport to leave safely, Belgium’s football association CEO told the RTBF channel.
‘I am terribly sad. We agreed 100 percent not to play the second half because of the conditions and out of respect for the victims and their families,’ said Sweden coach Janne Andersson, quoted by the Swedish news agency TT.
The shooting took place in the city centre’s northern districts. Police had been alerted to the incident after 7:00 pm local time (1700 GMT).
In a video shared online by Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, the shooter is seen with an automatic weapon on his shoulder, fleeing on a scooter.
Four gunshots can be heard in the video.
A witness who spoke to LN24 channel described his shock during the incident.
‘I stood there frozen, I didn’t move. I was shocked by what happened, even now I am still in shock. It was a man who came, pushed me, told me to stop running if I wanted to stay alive,’ said the witness, who gave his name as Sulayman.
The Belgian royal palace said it was ‘shocked’ by the shooting.
The president of the European Commission, which is based in Brussels, was quick to condemn the attack.
‘My thoughts are with the families of the two victims of the despicable attack in Brussels,’ Ursula von der Leyen posted on social media.
‘Together, we stand united against terror,’ she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe was ‘shaken’ by an ‘Islamist’ attack in Brussels, while France’s interior minister had earlier given instructions to strengthen border controls with Belgium.
Belgium had already been the target of an attack claimed by IS extremists in March 2016, at Brussels’ main airport and on the metro system, which killed 32 people.
Footage shared online shows the alleged shooter dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket arriving at the scene on his moped.
The alleged shooter then ran after several people as they flee into a building, while firing from an automatic rifle.
According to a media transcript of the video message recorded by the self-declared perpetrator, he said:
‘Islamic greeting Allahu Akbar. My name is Abdesalem Al Guilani and I am a fighter for Allah. I am from the Islamic State. We love who loves us and we hate who hates us. We live for our religion and we die for our religion. Alhamdulah. Your brother took revenge in the name of Muslims. I have killed three Swedes so far Al hamdoulelah. Three Swedish, yes. Those to whom I have done something wrong, may they forgive me. And I forgive everyone. Salam Aleykoum.’
The suspected gunman claimed the attack was revenge for the killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume in the United States. The six-year-old’s funeral was held on Monday
Hundreds of people gather at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, for Wadea’s funeral on Monday
Forensic investigators at the scene in Brussels were two people were shot dead by a gunman
The OCAD anti-terror centre also said that the terror alert for the rest of the country was raised to its second-highest level.
Harrowing footage of the attack taken by bystanders shows a man shooting several times using a large weapon while shouting in Arabic, as members of the public run for their lives.
Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reports the gunman used an automatic rifle and fled the scene on his scooter.
He is reported to have said he was avenging the stabbing of six-year-old US-Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was knifed to death in Plainfield, Illinois, on Saturday morning.
Wadea was stabbed 26 times and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed over a dozen times, by a man allegedly screaming ‘You Muslims must die!’ Joseph Czuba, 71, is charged with murdering the boy.
Manu Leroy, the CEO of the Belgian soccer union, said he discovered 10 minutes before kickoff that ‘something serious’ had happened in downtown Brussels.
‘It was decided in the first place that the match should go ahead because the stadium was the safest place to be at the time, so that the fans could stay here and be safe,’ he said.
Leroy said the Swedish fans were last to leave the stadium ‘because the police will escort the Swedish fans and players, who will obviously go straight to the airport and leave.’
‘The police will create a security corridor for the Swedish fans so that they can return home safely,’ he said
Belgium has suffered a series of terrorist attacks in recent years – all of it related to Islamist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Players, fans and match officials observe a minute’s silence prior to match between Belgium and Sweden at King Baudouin Stadium
Sweden fans inside King Baudouin Stadium, where the match has been suspended following the two killings of two Swedes in Brussels last night
Swedish fans look to each other for support amid tense scenes inside King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels
A forensic examiner coombs the scene while Belgian police secure the area after a shooting in Brussels
Belgian police officers from the forensic service search for evidence in a street after two people were killed
Belgian police officers walk as they secure the area in Boulevard d’Ypres, close to the canal
Investigators search the scene left behind by a suspect who is on the run, the Belgian capital’s prosecutor’s office said
This photograph shows the police cordon in place at the sight of the shooting in the Boulevard d’Ypres
Eight men have just been tried for their connections to the 2016 suicide bombings that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds at Brussels airport and a subway station.
In September, a Brussels court handed out sentences ranging up to life in prison to eight men for the jihadist bombings in Brussels.
French citizen Salah Abdeslam and Belgian-Moroccan Mohamed Abrini – already sentenced to life in jail by France for the November 2015 massacre in Paris – were the highest-profile of six defendants found guilty of murder in July.
Abrini, who was one of the intended bombers but decided not to blow himself up at the last moment, was given a 30-year jail term.
The court ruled not to give Abdeslam an additional term after he was sentenced in Belgium to 20 years in 2018 over a shootout.
The attacks – near the headquarters of both NATO and the EU – were part of a wave of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in Europe.
Sweden in August raised its terrorist alert to the second highest level, warning of an increase in threats against Swedish interests also abroad, after Koran burnings and other acts in Sweden against Islam’s holiest text outraged Muslims and triggered threats from jihadists.
The Swedish government has condemned the burnings and is considering amending laws that could stop them but critics say such moves need to preserve far-reaching freedom of speech.