Belgian machete wielder identified; Islamic State claims attack

A man who attacked two police officers in the Belgian city of Charleroi this weekend has been identified as a 33-year-old Algerian national, prosecutors said Sunday, while the Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility.

On Saturday afternoon, the man - identified only as KB - approached a checkpoint outside the Charleroi police headquarters. He called out "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest, in Arabic) before lashing out with a machete at the heads of two female officers.

Both officers sustained serious injuries to the face and neck, the state prosecution said in a statement. The police had previously said that one officer was taken to hospital with serious cuts, while the other was only slightly injured.

A third police woman on site at the time of the attack shot the perpetrator, who later died in hospital.

An inquiry is under way into "attempted terrorist murder," Prime Minister Charles Michel said in a press conference Sunday, posted online by broadcaster RTBF.

A bag the man had carried at the time of the attack did not contain arms or explosives, the prosecution said. Two properties around Charleroi were searched overnight.

The perpetrator, who had been living in Belgium since 2012, was known to police for common law infractions but had not been suspected of terrorist links, the prosecution statement added.

He was staying illegally in the country at the time of the attack, having twice ignored orders to leave the country, the office of State Secretary for Migration Theo Francken later said in a statement, according to the Belga news agency.

Forced returns to Algeria are "problematic," despite years of negotiations, Francken said in the statement.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed the attacker as one of its "soldiers," in a statement issued by the Aamaq News Agency. The group's propaganda mouthpiece has made similar claims for recent attacks in France, Germany and the United States.

The incident follows a series of knife and gun attacks across Europe, including the June killing of a police commander and his partner in France, with some of the incidents being linked to terrorist motives.

In March, the Belgian capital was also the site of coordinated suicide bombings that left more than 30 people dead.

The country's threat analysis unit, OCAM, has decided not to change the security alert level at present, Michel said. The country is at level 3 - the second highest - indicating a serious and likely risk of attack.

However, extra security measures will be introduced to protect police officers, the prime minister added. A debate is under way on whether to let agents carry their gun off-duty, he later said. Michel had cut short his holiday for a meeting earlier Sunday with the National Security Council.

Meanwhile, in the city of Liege, 95 kilometres east of Brussels, a man was seen wielding a machete early Sunday, the Belga news agency reported. The area was evacuated and the suspect, identified as a man of Turkish origin aged around 20, was detained soon afterwards.

In depth coverage

Charleroi machete attacker was living illegally in Belgium

A 33-year-old Algerian man who attacked two police officers with a machete on Saturday was staying illegally in Belgium, despite being ordered to leave the country, says the office of State Secretary for Migration Theo Francken, the Belga news agency reports.

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Two female police officers in the Belgian city of Charleroi were injured Saturday by a man wielding a machete who called out "Allahu Akbar," or "God is greatest," in Arabic, city police said.

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