Liege mass killer was on ‘radical watchlist,’ attack designated ‘terrorist act’
Benjamin Herman attacked two policewomen in Liege, Belgium on Tuesday with a knife. He then seized a gun from one of the officers before shooting both women dead. A man in a nearby car was also fatally wounded by gunfire.
On Wednesday, the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack, calling the gunman a “soldier of the Caliphate” in an online statement.
The attacker then ran into a school and took a woman hostage inside. As he attempted to flee the building, he threatening police and was shot dead by officers on the street. Several police officers were wounded in the incident.
“The signs are pointing towards a terrorist act,” prosecutor spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told reporters Wednesday. “Facts are qualified as terrorist murder and attempted terrorist murder.”
Herman was on a “radical watchlist,” according to Reuters, and was on a two-day release from prison to prepare for his full release in 2020. He had past convictions for robbery and drug dealing. AFP cited a source close to the investigation saying Herman was on the list due to his contacts with radicals, and is believed to have been radicalized while in prison. Reuters reports Herman converted to Islam while inside.
Belgium’s interior minister Jan Jambon told RTL that Herman is believed to have committed a murder the night before Tuesday’s attack. The victim, a former prison inmate Herman had served time with, died after being hit on the head with a blunt object.
"There are signs he was radicalised in prison but is it that radicalisation which drove him to commit these acts?” Jambon queried, Reuters reports. "It could have been because he had nothing to look forward to, because he also killed someone the night before, the guy's psychology and the fact, it seems, he may have been on drugs."
Belgian police are holding a tribute for the victims of Tuesday’s attack.
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