Attacker shouting “Allahu akbar” stabbed a Belgian policeman several times in the neck in central Brussels on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
The assailant, who wielded two kitchen knives during the incident outside the city’s main police station, was then shot and wounded by two police officers, they said in a statement.
The man is under arrest and in critical condition in hospital. The policeman is also in hospital but did not suffer life-threatening injuries in the attack at around 5.30 a.m.
“We have not yet establish the subject’s motives,” the city prosecutors said. “Several witnesses heard him shout ‘Allahu akbar’. The investigation will establish whether this is a terrorist act.”
The suspect is a Belgian national and known to police for a series of robberies. Four years ago, he was jailed four years for attempted manslaughter and had been on conditional release since last month.
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said the attack was a “cowardly act against our policemen” and that the suspect did not appear to be on the nation’s anti-terror data base.
The police officer was hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries after being stabbed in the neck, said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office.
She added that the attacker, who was carrying two small kitchen knives, was in critical condition after being shot in the chest and that investigators were looking for clues to his motivation.
“It is still unclear what the suspect’s motives are,” said Van Wymersch. “Some witnesses said he shouted “Allahu akbar (God is great) but the investigation will need to bring more clarity.”
Belgium has been under heightened security since the March 2016 attacks at Brussels’ airport and subway that left 32 people dead.
Tuesday’s incident had similarities with an attack in May, when a Belgian prison inmate stabbed two officers in eastern Liege and used their handguns to kill them and a bystander. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed, which also involved a fourth victim.