Armed man attacks Belgian city


iol pic wld Liege

REUTERS

Police officers and experts surround a dead body at the Place Saint Lambert square where a man threw explosives in the city centre of the Belgian city of Liege.

Liege, Belgium - A man armed with hand grenades and guns opened fire in the crowded centre of a Belgian city on Tuesday, killing two people and wounding 64, an official said.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the attack in Liege city, but Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said it did not involve terrorism. He said the assailant died, but did not say how that had happened. The daily La Meuse newspaper said the unidentified attacker killed himself.

Earlier media reports had said as many as three men had launched the midday attack, which left blood splattered across the cobblestone streets of a central square in Liege where people were doing Christmas shopping.

Footage from the scene showed people, including a large group of children, fleeing down the streets of the city centre - some still carrying shopping bags. Ambulances and police vehicles descended on the area in eastern Belgium.

As police helicopters and ambulances raced to the scene, the Belgian public broadcaster VRT reported that residents were ordered stay in their homes or seek shelter in shops or public buildings.

Another broadcaster, Radio Television Belge Francophone, said all buses had been asked to leave the city centre and all shops in the area were closed, some with many customers stranded inside.

A medical post was set up in the courtyard of the palace of the Prince Bishops court house at the site. Emergency medical teams were called in from as far away as the Netherlands, Mertens said.

VRT Radio spoke with Herve Taveirne from the courthouse into which he had fled to escape the gunfire.

“We were in the courthouse building and were just leaving when we saw someone toss a grenade,” Taveirne said. “I grabbed a little boy ... and took him back into the courthouse. Outside the building I heard shooting ... Our lives were in danger. This man was shooting in any direction. We ran for our lives at that point.”

The television channel La Une said the attack included the assailant opening fire with a Kalashnikov automatic weapon on a bus in the areas.

New reports said the attack began at about 12.30pm (6.30am EST) when the man lobbed several grenades at the bus shelter in Place Saint-Lambert, a busy downtown square.

The reports said witnesses reported four explosions and gun fire.

An unidentified man who was wounded in the attack told Belgium's VRT television network that “someone threw grenades and fired shots.”

Valerie Schaaps, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office in Brussels, confirmed there had been explosions and gunfire, causing injuries.

Place Saint-Lambert is a busy crossroads. Every day 1 800 buses serve the square, which leads to downtown shopping streets. The Place Saint-Lambert and the nearby Place du Marche host the Liege's annual Christmas market which consists of 200 retail cabins and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year. -

Sapa-AP


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