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Two Swedes killed in Brussels attack linked to terrorism

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The terror threat alert in Brussels was raised to its highest level on Monday after two Swedes were killed in a shooting that Belgian authorities said had a potential terrorist motivation.

A police spokesperson confirmed that shots had been fired in the area of Sainctelette in the north-west of the capital on Monday evening, adding that a police perimeter had been established and the investigation was ongoing.

Belgium’s Crisis Centre said a third person, a taxi driver, was injured in the shooting that had a “possible terrorist motive”. The person’s life was not in danger, the centre added.

A spokesperson for the Brussels prosecutor’s office confirmed the alleged shooter was still at large.

“I have just offered my sincere condolences to [Sweden’s prime minister] following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,” Prime Minister Alexander De Croo wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter. “As close partners, the fight against terrorism is a joint one,” he added.

The Crisis Centre raised the terrorist alert level for Brussels to 4, its highest, urging people to avoid unnecessary travel. This is the first time this level has been declared since 35 people were killed during Islamist terrorist attacks in 2016. The level for the rest of Belgium was raised to 3.

The shooting took place after thousands of Swedes had arrived in Brussels for a football match. The Euro 2024 qualifying tie was abandoned at half-time and spectators were being evacuated.

Supporters wait in the stands after the Euro 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels after the match was suspended on Monday © AP

The Crisis Centre said a person had claimed on social media to be responsible for the attack, citing the victims‘ Swedish nationality as a possible motivating factor behind the act.

“The message was recorded by a person identifying himself as the attacker. He claims to be inspired by Islamic State,” the Crisis Centre said in a statement.

The centre also said that urgent security measures were being taken to best protect Swedish supporters against possible new attacks.

Sweden raised its security threat level over the summer following several incidents of Koran burnings, sometimes linked to far-right protests, which caused a backlash among Muslim-majority countries.

European countries have been on heightened alert because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, fearing possible repercussions on the continent. Last week, a teacher was killed in France in an incident that Jewish leaders have connected with the conflict.

The Crisis Centre said that, at present, nothing indicates that the attack is linked to the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The European Commission issued a security warning to its staff and urged them to stay inside following the incident. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X: “Together, we stand united against terror.”

De Croo, interior minister Annelies Verlinden and justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne met at the Crisis Centre on Monday evening to monitor the situation.

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