Amaq Agency said yesterday's attack came 'in response to calls to target citizens' of countries in the US-led coalition bombing IS
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility today for an attack that wounded two policewomen in the Belgian city of Charleroi, saying the machete-wielding assailant was a "soldier" of the group.
Quoting an unidentified source, the IS-linked Amaq Agency said yesterday's attack came "in response to calls to target citizens" belonging to countries in a US-led coalition bombing IS in Syria and Iraq.
Police said today he was a 33-year-old Algerian with the initials K B. Belgium today opened a terrorism probe into the attack, the latest in a string of jihadist assaults in Europe.
The Algerian national had "a criminal record but was not known for terrorism," prosecutors said today.
The incident took place yesterday outside the main police station in the city of Charleroi, around 60 kilometres south of Brussels. The assailant died on yesterday after being shot by officers.
Two searches have been made in the neighbourhood, the prosecutor's statement said. The local prosecutor in Charleroi handed the case to the federal prosecutor "as there are indications that the attack could have been inspired by terrorist motives," it said.
"An examining magistrate specialising in terrorism has been named" for the investigation, it said. Belgian investigators said late yesterday the assailant cried "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) as he carried out the attack.
"We have been informed by federal prosecutors that an investigation has started for attempted terrorist murder given certain elements (in the case)," Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters. Michel, who saluted the courage of the police victims, was referring to the attacker's cry of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the assault in front of a police station.
Police spokesman David Quinaux told broadcaster RTL-TVI the assailant had "taken a machete out of a sports bag he was carrying and dealt very violent blows to the faces of the two policewomen".
Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers struck Brussels airport and a metro station near the European Union's institutions on March 22, killing 32 people. Those attacks were claimed by IS, which controls large areas of territory in Iraq and Syria and has claimed numerous terror strikes in Europe over the past year.