Swedish nationality ‘likely motive’ in fatal shooting of football fans in Brussels

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Two football fans shot dead in Brussels on Monday night in a suspected Islamist terror attack were probably targeted because they were Swedish, the Belgian prosecutor has said.

Brussels police are hunting a suspected gunman who killed two Swedish supporters close to where Belgium were hosting Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifying match on Monday evening.

The match was abandoned at half-time and some 35,000 fans were kept in the stadium by police for several hours before being evacuated.

Sweden in August raised its terror alert to the second-highest level, warning of an increase in threats against Swedish interests abroad, after Koran burnings and other acts in Sweden against Islam’s holiest text outraged Muslims and triggered threats from jihadists.



The suspected gunman, who called himself Abdesalem Al Guilani, claimed in a video on social media that he was a fighter for Allah.

The federal prosecutor said a third victim, who was wounded but whose condition was not in life-threatening, was a taxi driver. The prosecutor called on Brussels’ residents to stay indoors until the threat was over.

01:48 AM BST

Full story: Gunman at large and Brussels on high alert

We’re ending our live coverage of the attack in Brussels.

For the full story and the latest updates, read Joe Barnes’s report from Brussels.

Read more: Two Swedish football fans killed in Brussels shooting

01:26 AM BST

‘I was frozen, I didn’t move’

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.

11:55 PM BST

Schools in Brussels may be closed in the morning

The Netherlands has tightened controls on its border with Belgium following the terrorist attack.

Police officers are carrying out searches in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels, where the assailant was reportedly living. Local media outlets have reported the alleged terrorist, who is of Tunisian origins, was living in Belgium illegally.

Officials are meeting to decide on whether schools and offices in the Belgian capital will be able to open in the morning if the alleged terrorist is still on the loose.

The National Crisis Centre earlier upgraded Brussels’ warning level to four, the highest level, recommending against any unnecessary travel around the capital.

11:23 PM BST

Swedish PM asks Swedes to be vigilant

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said in a statement that his government is asking Swedes in Belgium to be vigilant and to follow instructions from Belgian authorities.

11:08 PM BST

Evacuation begins at the stadium

Fans are now being evacuated from the King Baudouin Stadium, some five hours after the initial attack took place.

Swedish fans are the last to leave the stadium and are being escorted by police.

Supporters have been waiting to leave the King Baudouin Stadium after the match between Belgium and Sweden was called off at half-time

Supporters have been waiting to leave the King Baudouin Stadium after the match between Belgium and Sweden was called off at half-time – AP

10:57 PM BST

Swedish nationality may have motivated attack, official says

A spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor’s office has ruled out the attack being linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict but suggested the nationality of the victims may have motivated the attacker.

“The Swedish nationality of the victims is mentioned as a probable motivation for the act,” the spokesman said.

In recent months, Sweden has been gripped by a series of controversial protests where pages of the Koran have been set alight, though it is not known if these events are linked to today’s attack.

In August, British travellers were warned by the Foreign Office that terrorists were “very likely” to carry out an attack on Sweden following a series of protests in which the Koran was burnt.

10:51 PM BST

Where the attack happened

10:37 PM BST

Suspect identified

The suspect in the killing of two Swedish football fans has been identified by the Belgian federal prosecutors’ office as Abdesalem L, 45.

The man is believed to have lived in an apartment in the Schaerbeek area of Brussels, about a 10 minute drive from the scene of the shooting.

10:19 PM BST

Suspect may have been known to security services

Earlier on Monday, the alleged terrorist, using the name Slayem Slouma, shared a social media post about a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy stabbed 26 times in Chicago.

Mr Slouma wrote on Facebook that if the boy was Christian “it would have been called terrorism and not a brutal crime”.

The suspect was known to Belgium’s security services because of an apparent radicalisation before the attack, Belgian news service Sudinfo reported on Monday night.

The office said there were no immediate connections to the ongoing security situation in Israel following the Hamas terrorist attack.

Officers investigating the shooting have cordoned off the scene

Officers investigating the shooting have cordoned off the scene – AP

10:07 PM BST

Belgian PM: A ‘cowardly attack’

Belgium’s Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, confirmed Swedish citizens were among the victims of the shooting.

Mr De Croo and his interior minister, Annelies Verlinden, were reported to have arrived at the centre following the attack.

The prime minister said: “My most sincere condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the cowardly attack in Brussels.

“We are monitoring the situation and asking Brussels residents to be vigilant.”

Hadja Lahbib, Belgium’s foreign minister, confirmed the incident as a terror attack. She tweeted: “Horrified by the terrorist attack which left two victims in the heart of Brussels. All necessary means must be mobilized to combat radicalism. Thoughts for the victims, their loved ones and for our law enforcement.”

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s president, said: “My heart goes out this evening to the families of the two victims of the despicable attack which took place in Brussels.

“My absolute support for the Belgian police forces, to quickly apprehend the suspect.

“We are united against terror.”

10:02 PM BST

‘I saw a car with three bullet holes’

A witness has described seeing the body of a man covered in blood in the aftermath of the shooting in Brussels.

A passer-by, named Mehdi by local media, said: “I saw a man around 40 years old lying lifeless on the ground in a pool of blood. I was completely in shock.

“Ten metres away was a black car with three bullet holes. There were two men in the car. One of them had died. The other was still alive, but covered in blood.”

09:56 PM BST

Gunman chased victims into an office building

The suspected gunman was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and later recorded a video saying: “We live for our religion, we will die for our religion, thank God. Thank God, your brother Abdesalam avenged the Muslims.”

Video footage from the scene also showed the gunman chasing the victims into the entrance of an office building and opening fire at them again.

One victim who tried to escape back out of the main door falls down after a gunshot rings out, with the gunman doubling back to hit his victim once again.

Other images show the alleged terrorist getting back on a motor scooter and driving away from the scene of the attack.

Separate videos were later circulated via social media appearing to show the gunman, still wearing the fluorescent orange jacket, declaring his association with terror group Isis.

The gunman was still at large as police secured the scene of the attack, close to Sainctelette Square, a short distance from Brussels city centre.

09:41 PM BST

Match suspended due to terror threat

The Euro 2024 qualifier match between Belgium and Sweden was suspended at half-time after the attack and following reports that the suspected gunman is heading towards the King Baudouin national stadium.

Journalists in the ground said fans were being kept in the ground with the score at 1-1.

Fans are waiting anxiously for news.

Sweden supporters sit in the stands during the Euro 2024 group F qualifying soccer match between Belgium and Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023
A supporter makes phone call as she waits in the stand during the Euro 2024 qualifying football match between Belgium and Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels
Supporters lit their mobile phones lights after suspension of the Euro 2024 group F qualifying soccer match between Belgium and Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, Monday, Oct. 16, 2023

09:37 PM BST

Macron: ‘Europe is being shaken’

Brussels was again hit by an “Islamist terrorist attack”, French President Emmanuel Macron has said as he reacted to news of the shooting.

He added: “Europe is being shaken”.

09:34 PM BST

What we know so far

Two people have been shot dead in an apparent terror attack in Belgium. Here’s what we know so far

  • A suspected terrorist said he “avenged Muslims” after shooting dead two Swedish football fans in Brussels

  • Shooting came as Belgium were hosting Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifying match

  • The alleged gunman in a fluorescent orange jacket fled the scene after using an automatic rifle

  • Belgium has raised its terror alert to the highest level

  • France announced it was tightening border controls with Belgium

  • The suspected gunman was heard shouting “Allahu Akbar”

  • Video footage from the scene showed the gunman chasing the victims into the entrance of an office building

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