Belgian and French police forces ‘neutralize’ one suspect while two others remain at large as neighborhood in Belgian capital put on lockdown; four police officers wounded in exchange of fire with suspects.

BRUSSELS – Armed Belgian police locked down a section of Brussels on Tuesday as they hunted fleeing gunmen who lightly wounded four police officers during a raid linked to the investigation of November’s Islamist attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were killed.

Belgian daily DH said one suspect, described as holding a machine gun, was “neutralized” after being spotted from a police helicopter in a nearby garden, while Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reported that two others were on the run.

The Belgian federal prosecutors office said a suspect armed with an assault rifle was killed by police.

When officers went to search an apartment in the south of the city, “one or more people immediately opened fire on police the moment the door was opened by the security forces”, it said in a statement.

Some five hours later, it added, police stormed the building and “a suspect armed with a Kalashnikov was killed”.

Police forces looking for suspects in Brussels (Photo: Reuters)
Police forces looking for suspects in Brussels (Photo: Reuters)


Forest mayor Marc-Jean Ghyssels told local media two people had barricaded themselves in a home, but it was not clear what happened to them.

“This operation is connected to the Paris attacks,” a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecutor told Reuters.

France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said French police were also taking part in the raid. “It was in the context of a raid. A team made up of Belgian and French police officers intervened and came under fire – shots from heavy weapons,” Cazeneuve said at a news conference in Ivory Coast.

Police told residents in the Forest neighborhood of the Belgian capital to stay indoors and a primary school close to the scene of the shooting was in lockdown, residents said. The lockdown in the area continued more than an hour after the first shots were fired and is close to Molenbeek, home to several people involved in the Paris attacks.

Local media said there was possibly more than one fugitive.

Police forces looking for suspects in Brussels (Photo: Reuters)
Police forces looking for suspects in Brussels (Photo: Reuters)


Police sealed off a wide perimeter around the area where the shots were heard to keep the many bystanders at a safe distance. A helicopter was hovering overhead to patrol the area as police commandos were still looking for at least one suspect. Several hundred spectators were trying to get a closer look at the operation in the multicultural neighborhood, which is near the main north-south railway linking Paris and Amsterdam and has a big Audi car factory nearby.

Several hooded officers wearing body armor milled around the neighborhood and ambulances were on standby.

Wounded police officers being evacuated to hospital (Photo: Reuters)
Wounded police officers being evacuated to hospital (Photo: Reuters)


Four months on, Belgian police and magistrates have been still piecing together the role Belgian nationals played in aiding the Paris attackers, as well as trying to track down missing suspects including international fugitive 26-year-old Frenchman Salah Abdeslam. He left Paris shortly after his brother Brahim blew himself up in the attacks.

The suspected ringleader of the attacks was a Brussels resident, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Another attacker, Bilal Hadfi, was said to have lived for a time in the Forest neighborhood.

Belgian authorities are holding 10 people who have arrested in the months since the attacks.

Belgian authorities have stepped up their counterterror efforts since a lone gunman killed four people at the Brussels Jewish museum in May 2014. The small Western European country has also been prime recruiting ground for the Islamic State group, and officials freely acknowledge their concerns about what radicalized recruits might do after returning home from the battlefields of Syria or Iraq.

As reported by Ynetnews