Belgian authorities identify dead suspect; two still on the run

Belgian authorities on Wednesday identified a man shot during an anti-terrorism raid connected to last year's Paris attacks as a 35-year-old Algerian who was barely known to the police, while warning that two suspects are still on the run.

Belgium has helped with the investigation into the November attacks in Paris, as several of the suspected perpetrators had links to the neighbouring country. The attacks in the French capital left 130 people dead and hundreds injured.

The killed man, identified as Mohamed Belkaid, was illegally living in Belgium. He was only known to police and judicial authorities for a theft committed in 2014, the state prosecution said.

He was killed Tuesday after a stand-off ensued when investigators tried to search a flat in the Brussels neighbourhood of Forest, in connection with the probe into the Paris attacks.

When investigators later entered, they found a Salafist book and a Kalashnikov rifle next to Belkaid's body. They also discovered a flag for the Islamic State extremist group in the apartment, as well as a large amount of ammunition. No explosives were found, the prosecution said.

Belkaid was shot as he was about to open fire on police from a window, prosecution spokesman Thierry Werts told journalists.

Two other people who are also thought to have been in the apartment were able to escape and remain on the run, the prosecution said. Their identities are unknown.

Belgium will not change its status of alert, which stands at Level 3, Prime Minister Charles Michel said Wednesday, following a meeting of the National Security Council. It includes the ministers responsible for security matters and officials from intelligence services.

This is one stage short of the highest alert level. It signifies a "possible and likely menace," Michel said, adding that police and military forces would remain out on the streets.

Four police officers were slightly injured in Tuesday's shoot-out. Three of them were immediately fired at by "at least two people armed with a riot gun and a Kalashnikov" when they arrived at the apartment to carry out the search.

The prosecution showed images Wednesday of the damaged gun of one officer, which was fired at while still in its holster. Bullet fragments were found in the bulletproof vest of another officer.

"The worst was avoided, due to the professional reaction of the police officers present, who immediately responded and who were able to retreat," Werts said.

Later Tuesday, police detained a suspect during another raid, as well as a man who was admitted to a nearby hospital with a broken leg. Both were released without charge on Wednesday, the prosecution said.

Dozens of private garages and a storage space were also searched on Tuesday, and a further raid was conducted in a nearby neighbourhood. They did not turn up any evidence, however.

"The investigation is actively underway, day and night," prosecution spokesman Werts said Wednesday.

Last update: Wed, 16/03/2016 - 18:26
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