One suspect dead, four officers injured in Brussels terrorism raid

A suspect armed with a Kalashnikov rifle was killed in the Belgian capital Brussels on Tuesday, following a raid related to the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last year, prosecutors said.

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.

Investigators had planned to search an apartment in the southern Brussels neighbourhood of Forest on Tuesday around 3 pm (1400 GMT) in connection with the probe into the Paris attacks, but encountered gunfire from "one or more people" as soon as they opened the door, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Police had not expected to find anyone at the apartment, which was rented under a false name, the RTBF broadcaster reported. Their inquiry was focused on the "entourage" of a person previously arrested on terrorism charges in Belgium, according to the newspaper Le Soir.

Three police officers were initially injured, including a French policewoman who was participating in a joint investigation team with Belgian counterparts, Interior Minister Jan Jambon told journalists in Brussels.

A fourth officer was injured later, during one of the several gunfire exchanges that followed throughout the afternoon, the prosecutors said.

The four officers' injuries were not serious, however. Two were released from hospital by the evening, the Belga news agency reported, while the two others were said to be suffering from shock.

The police launched an assault around 6:15 pm, during which the suspect with the Kalashnikov was killed. The person has yet to be identified, according to the prosecutors.

Spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told Belga, however, it was not Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks who is still being sought by police.

The Frenchman, who used to live in Brussels, is believed to have joined his brother in targeting restaurants and bars during the Paris killings.

On Tuesday evening, further police searches were underway in the Forest neighbourhood, Belga reported.

"The investigation is actively continuing, day and night, and it is not possible to currently give further clarifications, so as not to harm the investigation," the prosecutors said in their statement.

People in the area were also progressively being allowed to return home. Schools and an Audi car factory in the area had earlier been locked down.

"I am surprised. Normally this is a calm, family-friendly neighbourhood," resident Audrey Simonian told dpa.

More details on the shootout are expected to be issued at a press conference that the prosecutors will hold on Wednesday at 10:30 am. It was unclear on Tuesday evening if more suspects were at large.

Wednesday will also see a meeting of Belgium's National Security Council, Prime Minister Charles Michel said. The council includes the ministers responsible for security matters and officials from intelligence services.

Last update: Wed, 16/03/2016 - 01:49
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