Brussels has been brought to a standstill after two people were killed when a gunman claiming to be a member of ISIS went on a rampage and opened fire on a group of Swedish football fans.
The gunman is said to have begun shooting at the men as they passed through Boulevard d’Ypres just a few minutes north of the city’s famous Grand Plaza.
The Swedes were wearing their team’s jerseys and were believed to be on their way to a match at King Baudouin Stadium, where Sweden were playing Belgium. A third person is said to be seriously injured.
The alleged attacker used the name ‘Slayem Slouma’ to boast about the two murders on Facebook, adding he sought to avenge the killing of a six-year-old US-Palestinian boy.
Speaking in Arabic, he celebrated the slaughter, and said he committed them in the name of ISIS.
The shooter remains at large. Police confirmed that the man in the video – wearing an orange jacket, black scarf, yellow baseball hat and heavy black beard – was the one they were searching for in relation to the attack.
The match between Belgium and Sweden has now been abandoned, with players and fans locked inside the stadium.
The city’s terror alert has been raised to a level 4 – its highest, with the spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor telling people to ‘Go home and stay at home as long as the threat has not been eradicated’.
Police spokeswoman Ilse Vande Keere said officers arrived soon at the scene in Brussels, and sealed off the immediate neighbourhood
The shooting took place in Boulevard d’Ypres just a few minutes north of the city’s famous Grand Plaza
A picture of the man – said to be involved in today’s shooting in Brussels – was captured in mobile phone footage
The man is reported to have said he was avenging the stabbing of six-year-old US-Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was knifed to death in Plainfield, Illinois, on Saturday morning
Police at the site of a shooting incident in the Boulevard d’Ypres in Brussels
A map shows the location of the killing in Brussels city centre and that of the King Baudouin Stadium in the city’s northwestern suburbs
Many Sweden fans at King Baudouin Stadium were tearful and clung to each other for support, while others checked their mobile phones for the latest information
Belgian police and forensic examiners work at the scene of a shooting in the Boulevard d’Ypres
The match was called off after ‘the players decided they do not want to continue the game, because of what happened earlier today in Brussels,’ an announcement said.
A UEFA spokesperson said: ‘Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels this evening, it has been decided, after consultation with the two teams and the local police authorities, that the qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden is abandoned.
‘Further communication will be made in due course.’
Footage shared online shows the alleged shooter dressed in a fluorescent orange jacket arriving at the scene on his moped.
The alleged shooter then ran after several people as they flee into a building, while firing from an automatic rifle.
The OCAD anti-terror centre also said that the terror alert for the rest of the country was raised to its second-highest level.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo suggested the attack was linked to ‘terrorism’ and convened an emergency meeting of top Cabinet ministers.
‘I have just offered my sincere condolences to @SwedishPM following tonight’s harrowing attack on Swedish citizens in Brussels,’ De Croo said. He added on X, formerly known as Twitter, ‘As close partners the fight against terrorism is a joint one.’
It was not immediately clear if the shooting was linked to the international uproar over the Israel-Hamas war.
‘A horrible shooting in Brussels, and the perpetrator is actively being tracked down,’ said Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden, adding that she was joining government talks at the National Crisis Center.
Laura Demullier of the OCAD center said in an interview that the highest priority for authorities now was to get thousands of football fans attending the Belgium-Sweden soccer match safely out of the stadium where the match had been abandoned half way through
Harrowing footage of the attack taken by bystanders shows a man shooting several times using a large weapon while shouting in Arabic, as members of the public run for their lives.
Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reports the gunman used an automatic rifle and fled the scene on his scooter.
He is reported to have said he was avenging the stabbing of six-year-old US-Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume, who was knifed to death in Plainfield, Illinois, on Saturday morning.
Wadea was stabbed 26 times and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, was stabbed over a dozen times, by a man allegedly screaming ‘You Muslims must die!’
Joseph Czuba, 71, is charged with murdering the boy.
Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo urged civilians to be vigilant and said: ‘My deepest condolences to the relatives of the cowardly assassination attempt in Brussels’
Forensic investigators at the scene in Brussels were two people were shot dead by a gunman
Players, fans and match officials observe a minute’s silence prior to match between Belgium and Sweden at King Baudouin Stadium
Sweden fans inside King Baudouin Stadium, where the match has been suspended following the two killings of two Swedes in Brussels earlier this evening
Swedish fans look to each other for support amid tense scenes inside King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels
The match was abandoned at halftime after two Swedes were killed in a shooting in central Brussels before kickoff
A forensic examiner coombs the scene while Belgian police secure the area after a shooting in Brussels
Swedish Justice Minister, Gunnar Strommer, said his government was working with authorities in Belgium ‘to get more information about what happened’.
‘Tonight we have received terrible news from Brussels,’ he said in a statement.
‘The government office and relevant authorities are working intensively to get more information about what happened.’
The gunman was travelling on a moped, and was heard to shout ‘Allahu Akabar’ – Arab for God is the Greatest – by witnesses.
An investigating source said: ‘He was also screaming about carrying out a revenge attack. He was shooting at various people, and hit a number of them. This had all the hallmarks of a terrorist attack.’
The source said there was also a video circulating on social media in which the attacker explains having to ‘take revenge’ by killing three people from Sweden.
The suspect, who was wearing a crash helmet and fluorescent jacket, was brandishing a ‘Kalashnikov-style’ weapon, and had also fired at man in the lobby of a nearby building.
The emergency services arrived in large numbers within minutes, but no suspect was arrested.
The investigating source added: ‘The alleged perpetrator has posted a video in which he is a member of ISIS’.
The claim was also published by Sudinfo, one of the largest news outlets in Belgium, which said the Facebook post shows the man ‘boasting about having murdered infidels.’
It adds: ‘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.’
A Belgium government spokesman said representatives of the country’s security services, public prosecutor’s office and cabinet had gathered at a Crisis Centre, to discuss the terrorist motive.
‘All partners have indeed been called together,’ said Laura Demullier, spokesperson for the state Crisis Center.
Belgian police officers from the forensic service search for evidence in a street after two people were killed
Uproar among Sweden fans during the European Championship qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden
Police cordon off an area where a shooting took place in the center of Brussels
Belgian police officers walk as they secure the area in Boulevard d’Ypres, close to the canal
Investigators search the scene left behind by a suspect who is on the run, the Belgian capital’s prosecutor’s office said
This photograph shows the police cordon in place at the sight of the shooting in the Boulevard d’Ypres
Belgian police secure the area after two people were shot dead in Brussels
The centre of Brussels was brought to a standstill after a lone gunman shot two people dead this evening
Belgium police stand at the site of a shooting incident
‘Everyone is asked to come here as soon as possible to discuss the next move.’
Police spokeswoman Ilse Vande Keere said officers arrived soon at the scene, and sealed off the immediate neighbourhood.
She declined to elaborate on the circumstances of the shooting.
There has also been controversy in Sweden over Charlie Hebdo-style cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
A Brussels police spokesman said: ‘We are talking about two people dead, and they are believed to be Swedish.’
Belgium has suffered a series of terrorist attacks in recent years – all of it related to Islamist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Eight men have just been tried for their connections to the 2016 suicide bombings that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds at Brussels airport and a subway station.
In September, a Brussels court handed out sentences ranging up to life in prison to eight men for the jihadist bombings in Brussels.
French citizen Salah Abdeslam and Belgian-Moroccan Mohamed Abrini – already sentenced to life in jail by France for the November 2015 massacre in Paris – were the highest-profile of six defendants found guilty of murder in July.
Abrini, who was one of the intended bombers but decided not to blow himself up at the last moment, was given a 30-year jail term.
The court ruled not to give Abdeslam an additional term after he was sentenced in Belgium to 20 years in 2018 over a shootout.
The attacks – near the headquarters of both NATO and the EU – were part of a wave of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group in Europe.
Sweden in August raised its terrorist alert to the second highest level, warning of an increase in threats against Swedish interests also abroad, after Koran burnings and other acts in Sweden against Islam’s holiest text outraged Muslims and triggered threats from jihadists.
The Swedish government has condemned the burnings and is considering amending laws that could stop them but critics say such moves need to preserve far-reaching freedom of speech.