Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grenade attack in Belgium kills 4 and injures 75 at Liege Christmas market

grenade attack in Belgium
Grenade attack in Liege
A man armed with grenades and an assault rifle attacked shoppers in the Belgian city Liege today, leaving four people dead and wounding 75 others.

The attack ignited a stampede, as hundreds fled the explosions and bullets in the busy Place Saint-Lambert.

Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said the attack did not involve terrorism.

The attacker was identified as Norodine Amrani, 33, a Liege resident who had served jail sentences for offences involving guns, drugs and sex abuse.

He was among the dead, but it was unclear if he committed suicide or died by accident. He was not killed by police.

The dead included two teenage boys, aged 15 and 17, and a 75-year-old woman. A two-year-old girl was reported to be fighting for her life.

Amrani had been summoned for police questioning today but the reason for the questioning was not clear. He still had a number of grenades with him when he died.

He left his home in Liege with a backpack, armed with hand grenades, a revolver and an assault rifle.

He walked alone to the central square, then got on to a platform that gave him a view of the square below, with a huge Christmas tree and crowded with shoppers.

From there, Amrani lobbed three hand grenades towards a bus shelter, which serves 1,800 buses a day, then opened fire on the crowd. The explosions sent glass from the bus shelter across a wide area.

Witness Dimitri Degryse said: "I heard a loud boom. I thought it was something on my car that was broken or something. Then a few seconds after, a second boom, and I saw all the glass breaking, I saw people running, screaming."

As soon as the shooting began, hundreds of people fled the square, as well as a Christmas market in an adjacent square, rampaging through old city streets looking for cover.

Video from the scene showed people, including a large group of children, fleeing the city centre, some still carrying shopping bags.

As police hunted for possible accomplices, residents were ordered to stay in their homes or seek shelter in shops or public buildings.

A medical post was set up in the nearby courtyard of the Prince Bishops courthouse. Dozens of emergency vehicles took victims away for treatment.

Police closed off the area but found no accomplices and calm returned after a few hours.

The Place Saint-Lambert and the nearby Place du Marche host Liege's annual Christmas market, which consists of 200 tiny shops and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year.

By dusk, with the Christmas lights gleaming again, King Albert II and Queen Paola came to pay their respects, as did prime minister Elio Di Rupo.

Place Saint-Lambert is a busy crossroads. Every day 1,800 buses serve the square, which leads to central 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.

News by Mirror