BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian prosecutors on Sunday identified the machete-wielding man who attacked two policewomen as a 33-year-old Algerian known to police for criminal offenses but not for terrorist acts.
The Saturday attack was initially was being treated as a terrorist incident, notably because the man shouted “Allahu akbar!” as he slashed at the officers outside the main police station in the city of Charleroi, Prime Minister Charles Michel said. The assailant, shot by a third officer, died later in a hospital.
The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office said Sunday that the attacker, who it identified only as K.B., had lived in Belgium since 2012.
“Since there are indications that the attack may have been inspired by a terrorist motive, the federal prosecutor’s office decided to take over the investigation from the district prosecutor’s office of Charleroi,” the federal office said.
The federal prosecutor’s office said two police searches were carried out overnight in the Charleroi area, but said no further information about the investigation would be made public
Michel said the prosecutors were investigating a possible case of “attempted terrorist murder.”
The prime minister spoke to reporters following an emergency meeting with top Belgian law enforcement officials on Sunday morning. Michel cut short his vacation in the south of France to hurry back to Brussels following the attack in the southern Belgian city.
“We must keep a cool head,” he said. “We must avoid panic, of course — not give in to terror. That’s the trap that has been set for us.”
Belgium has been on high alert since the March 22 suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State extremists that killed 32 people in Brussels. Many of the perpetrators of the Nov. 13 carnage in Paris that killed 130 people were also residents of Belgium.
“We know we must be constantly, constantly vigilant,” Michel said.
Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput said the government’s Crisis Center would meet to determine if additional measures should be taken to protect police buildings and staff.
On Sunday, Charleroi police posted a request on their Twitter account asking reporters not to divulge officers’ identities.
“We are targets,” Charleroi police explained.