A man who detonated a suitcase at Brussels Central Station in a failed terror attack has been identified as a Moroccan national in his 20s, Belgium Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt said Wednesday.
The man was shot dead by soldiers on patrol in the station as he ran toward them shouting “Allahu Akbar,” Van Der Sypt said, in the most detailed account yet from Belgian authorities of Tuesday evening’s incident.
No one was injured, but the incident, a little after 8:40 p.m. local time, set off panic as people ran for cover.
The outcome could have been far worse, Van Der Sypt said, adding that the man’s suitcase contained nails and bottles. “It’s clear that he wanted certainly to cause more damage than he did,” he said.
No suicide belt
The man had entered the station at 8:39 p.m., five minutes before leaving his suitcase in the ticket hall, Van Der Sypt said. The case then partially exploded and with the luggage in flames, the suspect went down to a platform in pursuit of a station master, he said.
The suitcase then exploded a second time, causing a more powerful blast. The man returned to the main ticket hall and rushed toward a military police officer, again shouting Allahu Akba. He was shot several times and died at the scene, Van Der Sypt said. He was not wearing a suicide belt or vest.
Van Der Sypt refused to name the man but said he was of Moroccan origin and lived in the Molenbeek area of Brussels, where his home is being searched.
He was was not known to the police for anything related to terrorism, Van Der Sypt said. He declined to say whether the man was known to police for any other kind of offense.
The attack is being treated as a terrorist incident and anti-terror authorities are heading up the investigation, he added.
PM: Belgium won’t be intimidated
A witness who was inside Brussels Central Station during the incident said he heard two explosions and then heard someone yell “Allahu Akbar” twice followed by heavy gunfire.
Armed patrols, including two bomb disposal units, surrounded the station, which was evacuated and closed Tuesday evening. It reopened to travelers Wednesday morning.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel vowed Wednesday that Belgium would not be intimidated by terrorists, saying: “We want to defend our liberty.”
The country will remain at threat level 3, meaning there is a serious and real threat, but an imminent attack is not deemed likely, he said.
A concert by the band Coldplay at the King Baudouin Stadium will go ahead Wednesday night as planned, with additional security measures, Michel said.
There will be a heightened security presence through the day in train and metro stations, the Belgian Crisis Center tweeted. Public events will also have increased security.