Benjamin Herman, who had been released from prison one day ago, stole an officer’s gun during a routine check and then used the weapon to kill the victims
A “radicalised” gunman who killed two female police officers and a bystander during a suspected terror attack in Belgium shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he carried out the massacre.
The attacker had a knife when he stole an officer’s firearm and used the gun against his victims before taking a woman hostage at a school in Liege.
Anti-terrorist officers killed the 36-year-old Belgian man in a shootout, bringing an end to the rampage.
Chilling images posted online show the gunman – named as Benjamin Herman – wielding two handguns after killing his victims.
He launched the attack just one day after he was released from prison on day parole, with local reports claiming he was “radicalised” behind bars.
Belgian authorities said the incident is being treated as terrorism as Belgian media circulated a photo a man they claimed was Benjamin Herman – yet to be confirmed by police.
Herman had been serving time for drug offences and was classified as “unstable”, according to local reports.
Local media reported that investigators were looking into whether he converted to Islam and was radicalised in jail.
Witnesses said the attacker was armed with two guns and shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he carried out the attack, VTM reported.
Two other police officers were seriously wounded during the incident.
The drama unfolded outside the Augustins cafe in Liege city centre at about 10.30am on Tuesday.
The knife-wielding assailant attacked two female police officers from behind and disarmed one, using her gun to kill the pair and a 22-year-old man in a car he apparently attempted to steal.
He ran into the Athenee de Waha high school, where he took a female cleaner hostage.
He soon emerged from the building and shot at police – wounding two officers in the legs – and was then gunned down by an elite anti-terror squad.
The hostage was released without harm.
One witness told of the chilling moment he came face-to-face with the shooter after hearing “popping” noises in the street.
The witness told Sudpresse: “I saw a man dressed in black with a backpack and two pistols in his hands. He pulled a [passenger] out of a car.
“Then the shooter walked towards the witness, but he turned and shot again.
“I saw a person fall to the ground. I do not know if she did that to take shelter or because she was [shot]. I have never seen anything like it. It was madness.”
Police told local media that all students were safe after the school was evacuated and they were taken to the Botanical Garden nearby.
As the chaos unfolded witnesses posted harrowing video online showing terrified people running for cover on Liege’s central boulevard d’Avroy.
A heavy burst of gunshots and sirens are heard.
A graphic video of the scene outside the cafe shows two bloodied police officers as they lay motionless on the floor in a zebra crossing.
A local source said: “Two officers were hit and then the man went on the run.
“He was seen running into the Waha secondary school, where he is said to have taken a female cleaner hostage.”
The source added: “The gunman was then neutralised. He was heard shouting ‘Alluhu Akbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is the greatest’.”
Catherine Collignon, a spokesman for Liege prosecutors, confirmed four people, including the assailant, were dead, and two other police officers were seriously wounded.
She said terrorism was currently considered the principal motivation for the attack by those leading the judicial enquiry.
The gunman, from Marche-en-Famenne in south-eastern Belgium, was released from prison near Liege on Monday and was known for drug trafficking and theft, but not for terrorism, local media reported.
HLN reported that he was on prison leave and he had been “radicalised” while serving time.
However he was not on a list of possible violent extremists, RTBF reported.
In the aftermath, Belgium’s royal family said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act.”
King Philippe was expected to visit the scene along with Prime Minister Charles Michel, who offered condolences to the victims and their families.
Belgium’s national threat level remained at level two out of four – indicating an average risk of a terror attack – after Tuesday’s deadly shooting.
It has been the target of multiple terror attacks in recent years, leading to a massive increase in security across the country.
The country has been on high alert since a Brussels-based ISIS cell was involved in the 2015 attacks on that killed 130 people, and the 2016 attacks on Brussels in which 32 died.
The ISIS cell had links to militants in Verviers, where in early 2015 police raided a safe house and killed two men who had returned from fighting with radical Islamists in Syria.
Liege, an industrial city close to the German border in a French-speaking region, was the scene of a shooting in 2011, when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 others before turning the gun on himself.
On its travel advice website, the UK’s Foreign Office warns holidaymakers that terrorists are “very likely” to carry out attacks in Belgium.
The website states: “Attacks could happen anywhere, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners.”