An Islamist gunman who shot dead two Swedish football fans and injured others in central Brussels on Monday evening has been shot dead after more than 12 hours on the run, Belgian media reported on Tuesday.
The suspect, named as 45-year-old Tunisian national Abdesalem Lassoued, rode his scooter to an intersection at around 7:15 p.m. local time on Monday before opening fire with an automatic assault rifle, shooting dead two Swedish nationals and wounding a taxi driver.
The two deceased victims are understood to have been visiting the Belgian capital to attend the European Championship qualifying match between Sweden and Belgium at the Heysel Stadium on Monday evening.
Amateur footage circulated online showed the perpetrator, dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket and wearing a white helmet, rampaging through the city. Following the shooting, he returned to his scooter and was filmed riding around downtown Brussels shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
Ce n’est pas une blague, s’il vous plaît faites attention à vous pic.twitter.com/9tP4Us1iUG— Votre Nom Ici (@momoblf) October 16, 2023
Lassoued later published a video message recorded in Arabic in which he revealed that his motivation for the mass shooting was to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world and affiliated himself with the Islamic State death cult.
“In his very violent speech, he said he had shot two people to ‘avenge the Muslims and that we live and die for our religion,'” the Sudinfo news site stated.
Un tireur armé encore en liberté à Bruxelles, si vous lisez ce message et que vous êtes sur la capitale, rentrer chez vous il se dirige vers le stade Roi Baudouin #Bruxelles pic.twitter.com/Ckb9Me3Z9e— Votre Nom Ici (@momoblf) October 16, 2023
After a night of terror, the Belgian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday that the suspected perpetrator had been neutralized.
He was reportedly shot in the chest during a stop and search in the Belgian capital and died later in the hospital.
“We can confirm that he is dead, he was shot by Belgian police. A weapon was also found during the intervention,” said a spokesperson for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
The match between Belgium and Sweden was suspended at half-time with supporters locked down inside the stadium for some time after its cancellation. Swedish supporters were only permitted to leave the stadium at 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning under the protection of a police guard.
Belgian authorities confirmed on Tuesday that the investigation into the attack is still ongoing and police are looking for a potential accomplice, Belgian news outlet HLN reported.
“We cannot rule out that there are accomplices,” said Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo revealed that Lassoued was a failed asylum seeker from Tunisia and had been living in Belgium illegally for three years.
The gunman applied for asylum back in 2019, but his application was rejected a year later.
Authorities made no efforts to deport him back to his country of origin, despite Lassoued being known to security services as a radicalization threat, having previous links to human trafficking, and attacking state security personnel.
He was also known to local police after recently threatening a resident of an asylum center in Brussels, and local media reported that he had previously been convicted of terror offenses in Tunisia.
De Croo offered his condolences to the Swedish nation on Tuesday, posting on X that the attack had “shaken the foundations of our peaceful societies.”
“We offer our unwavering solidarity in the face of this blind hatred. We will counter terrorism together with even greater determination,” he added.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is expected to hold a press conference later on Tuesday.