(BRUSSELS) – A Belgian prison inmate who killed four people during a "terrorist murder" and probably wished to do more damage, the prosecution said Wednesday, when the authorities were looking for possible accomplices and the Islamic State group's responsibility
The convict who stabbed two police officers in the city of Liège and killed them with their small arms, and a spectator was a "soldier of the caliphate," IS said in a brief statement on the site of his news agency Aamaq.
Such a formulation is typical of the claims that ISIS makes even when suspects are not directly linked to the terrorist group. The Belgian authorities did not say that they had evidence that the inmate swore allegiance to IS or acted on his orders. Interior Minister Jan Jambon noted that Benjamin Herman, the Belgian citizen named Liège Killer, killed a fourth person on Monday night in the eastern industrial city
Officials said Wednesday that if the bar owner and a cleaning lady acted less skillfully and courageously, the death toll would have been higher in an attack outside a Liège coffee shop.
Herman first stifled the officers repeatedly with a knife from behind, stole their handguns and shot them while lying on the ground.
The cafe owner quickly pushed the guests out of sight as the shooter entered the bar. On the street, Herman shot a 22-year-old passenger in a car and shouted "Allahu akbar" several times, Arabic for "God is great," the authorities said ,
Herman took a cleaning lady hostage near the school. Imaankaf Darifa, the hostage, told The Associated Press that she had tried to keep him away from the children.
"I told him, 'You're here in a school, you can not go to school, it's not right, what you're doing,' Darifa recalled.
Her kidnapper asked if she was Muslim and she told him it was her, then asked if she could observe the holy month of Ramadan.
"I answered yes. He said to me, "I will not hurt you," said Darifa.
She said Herman had told her to ask the police outside the school to leave. When the officers refused, the shooter dropped his ID.
Then Darifa said, "He went out and I left, and then there were the weapons and they killed him."
Prime Minister Charles Michel and King Philippe visited her in the hospital, where she was treated for shock.
The attack shook Belgium. The country's police and military have been working overtime to protect public buildings as coordinated suicide attacks on Brussels Airport and the subway system on March 22, 2016 killed 32 people and injured hundreds.
The police officers were identified as Soraya Belkacemi, 44, and Lucile Garcia, 54. The passenger in the car was called Cyril Vangriecken, 22, who was preparing to become a primary school teacher.
In Liege, Belkacemi's mother, Bernadette Hennart, kissed a necklace and placed it over flowers set up at the scene, saying that it was important for her and the victim's brother to visit the place where her daughter died Moments spent.
Fliers flew half-staffed on public buildings around the city, signing a condolence letter and putting flowers in memory of the victims.
"Every morning I'm scared that this will happen, and every day it's closer to home," Melissa Lamny told the Associated Press after wrapping flowers around a lamppost at the scene
Belgian federal judge Wenke Roggen said on Wednesday that the crimes are being treated as "terrorist murder and terrorist murder attempt." She said the assessment was based on Herman 's demands for increases in police officers attacking with knives and their weapons stealing was reflected in their actions,
His call for "Allahu akbar" and contact with radicalized people were also factors, the magistrate said] The prosecution said Herman had had several police incidents since he was a minor including convictions for assault, drugs and orders. He left the prison on vacation early Monday and should have returned on Tuesday evening.
"He also committed a murder the night before," Interior Minister Jambon told broadcaster RTL. Jambon said the fourth victim was a former inmate who was detained with Herman. Herman is said to have killed the man on Monday night by slapping him over the head with a blunt object.
Jambon told Herman "was not part of a network, he received no instructions from anyone else, so there is no need to increase the alert level of the terror threat," which stands at 2 of a possible 4 in Belgium.