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The man who killed two people in Brussels on Monday evening and injured a third is still on the run. The victims are two Swedes, the injured is a taxi driver declared out of danger. The suspected perpetrator of the attack is Abdesalem L.: Alexander De Croo, prime minister of Belgium, said that he is a 45-year-old “of Tunisian origin and was staying illegally” in the country. The man, the authorities explained, could be armed with a Kalashnikov (ALL UPDATES LIVE).
Who is the alleged Brussels attacker
The spokesperson for the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said the suspected attacker was born in 1978 and was identified as Abdesalem L. Belgium’s State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Nicole de Moor, added that the man had had his asylum application rejected but then “disappeared from the radar” of the Belgian authorities. The alleged attacker, explained de Moor, “had submitted an asylum application in our country in November 2019. He received a negative decision in October 2020 and shortly thereafter disappeared from the radar”. “He was officially removed from the municipality’s national register on 12 February 2021 and therefore it was not possible to trace him to organize his return. He has never stayed in a Federal reception center. He was never presented by the police after an interception at “Foreigners Office to allow his repatriation. As a result, the order to leave the country, issued in March 2021, was never carried out,” he continued. The man appears to be domiciled in Schaerbeek, a neighborhood of the capital that is among the most densely populated by the Turkish and North African communities. “The impression is that it is a lone wolf,” the Italian ambassador to Belgium Federica Favi told Sky TG24.
Belgian prosecutor Frédéric Van Leeuw confirmed that an enhanced police operation, led by special units, took place during the night on avenue Huart Hamoir, in Schaerbeek, in the place where the alleged perpetrator of the attack was staying. “The entire building includes around twenty apartments and was searched in its entirety, but the suspect was not found,” Van Leeuw explained. In a press conference, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne specified that Abdesalem L.’s case was under investigation by the police even before last night’s terrorist attack. The alleged attacker, earlier this year, was reported by an occupant of an asylum center in Campine (not far from Antwerp) for threats via social media. The complainant had told the police that Abdesalem had already been convicted of terrorism in Tunisia. The Antwerp judicial police then took action and scheduled a meeting on the case for this Tuesday. In the meantime, federal authorities had investigated the man’s past in Tunisia, discovering that the conviction was linked to common crimes and not terrorism. This fact, Van Quickenborne underlined, had ensured that the case was not treated as a “concrete or imminent threat”.
The video posted on Facebook
The Tunisian accent of the alleged Brussels attacker was recognized by several Belgian media after the man published a video on his Facebook profile – now blocked – in which he claimed to be the attacker and to belong to ISIS. The man in the video said his name was Abdesalem. Belgian authorities confirmed the authenticity of the video. “A claim was published on social networks and recorded by a person who presented himself as the attacker. He claims to be inspired by the Islamic State,” the Belgian crisis center wrote on X. In the video, the man announced in a video that he had “avenged Muslims.” “I am a Mujahid of the Islamic State, whether you like it or not. We live for our religion and we die for this same religion,” the man reportedly said in Arabic. According to the reconstruction of the LN24 broadcaster, in the previous hours the man would have published another post on Facebook in reference to the murder of the six-year-old Muslim child stabbed on Sunday near Chicago.