A gunman suspected of killing two Swedish nationals in a terrorist attack in Brussels has died after being shot by police, bringing an end to an overnight manhunt.
The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office confirmed Tuesday that the suspect, whose identity is yet to be confirmed, had been killed.
He was spotted by a witness in a cafe in the Brussels municipality of Schaerbeek shortly after 8:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday, and then shot during an “intervention” by the police, Belgium’s National Crisis Center (NCCN) said.
Emergency services attempted to resuscitate the suspect but his death was confirmed at a hospital later that morning, the NCCN added, while a military weapon was found at the cafe.
Belgian officials said on Tuesday there could be a link between the attack and the current Israel-Hamas war, Belgium public broadcaster RTBF reported.
The suspected gunman’s deadly attack Monday night came as Belgium hosted Sweden in a Euro 2024 qualifier soccer game at the King Baudouin Stadium 3 miles (5 kilometers) from downtown Brussels, forcing the match to be abandoned at half-time.
The stadium was later evacuated and fans were told to return home immediately, according to the NCCN.
In a video posted on social media, a man identifying himself as the gunman claimed “to be inspired by the Islamic State,” a spokesperson for Belgium’s federal prosecutor’s office said, adding “the Swedish nationality of the victims was mentioned as a probable motivation for the act.”
It emerged that the attacker shared a number of messages in support of the Palestinian people on social media and “it is therefore possible that the situation in the Middle East played a role,” the federal prosecutor’s office said Tuesday, according to RTBF.
The office added that “a more in-depth investigation will have to reveal the exact motivations of the perpetrator.”
Federal public prosecutor’s spokesman Eric van Duyse had initially said there was no indication of a potential link with the Israel-Hamas war.
The deadly shooting follows a spate of Quran-burning protests in Sweden and Denmark that has caused angry demonstrations in Muslim-majority countries, heightened security fears and left both Scandinavian nations questioning whether they need to review their liberal laws on freedom of speech.
A witness to the attack told Reuters that he heard a first gun shot, saw a couple running away and saw a white car accelerate past.
“That’s when I saw the assailant enter the building, who shot twice towards the man,” he said. “The man fell to the ground. I saw him fall because I was just nearby, I could see everything that was happening inside. I stayed there. I was frozen, I couldn’t move. I’m still shivering because of what happened. And then the man came back and shot another bullet, and he came out.”
Belgian authorities condemned the attack.
“Horrified by the terrorist attack that claimed two victims in the heart of Brussels,” Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib posted to X, formerly known as Twitter. “All necessary means must be mobilized to combat radicalism. Our thoughts go out to the victims, their families, and our police forces.”
Following the attack, the terror threat level for Brussels was raised to 4, the highest level, while the French Interior Ministry told CNN it had “strengthened” checks at the Franco-Belgian border.
Police were on the streets of Brussels to ensure safety, the city’s mayor Philippe Close posted on X.
In a post Tuesday on X, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo offered his “deepest condolences to the relatives of this cowardly attack.”
“We are now making sure the Swedish soccer fans can travel back home safely,” he added.
UAEFA said a moment of silence would be held at all Euro 2024 qualifying matches on Tuesday, in memory of the two victims of the attack.
The European Parliament held a minute of silence for the victims earlier Tuesday.
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said in an address in Strasbourg on Tuesday that the alert level for European Parliament buildings in Brussels had been raised to orange.
Meanwhile, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called on the European Union to bolster border controls and internal security following the terrorist attack, saying the region could not afford to be “naive.”
“All indications are that this is a terror attack aimed at Sweden and Swedish citizens only due to them being Swedish,” Kristersson said during a press conference. “These terrorists want to scare us into obedience and silence. That will not happen,” he added.
Kristersson will travel to Brussels on Wednesday to commemorate and mourn the victims of the attack, he said on X.