Over 100 Wounded, Four Dead, in Belgium Attack

Midday attack sent hundreds of panicked shoppers stampeding down the cobbled streets.

 

 
 
 

RAF CASERT, Associated Press | | Wednesday, December 14, 2011


LIEGE, Belgium (AP) — Summoned for questioning by Belgian police, a man with a history of weapons and drug offenses left home armed with hand grenades, a revolver and an assault rifle. Stopping at a central square filled with holiday shoppers, he lobbed three grenades into the crowd, then opened fire.

JEMS: Active Shooter Incidents
JEMS: What EMS Wants You to Know About Mass-Casualty Incidents
JEMS Webinar: The Role of Staging at MCIs

Four people were killed, including an 18-month-old toddler, and 122 were wounded in the assault Tuesday that brought tragedy to the pre-Christmas season of students reveling in exam results and preschoolers enchanted by brightly lit trees and holiday stalls.

Authorities said the shooter also died, but they were at a loss to explain the reason for the onslaught. The prime minister said it was not related to terrorism.

In a second burst of deadly violence in Western Europe on Tuesday — attacks rare for the continent — a man shot and killed two Senegalese vendors at a market in Italy.

The midday attack in the eastern Belgian city of Liege sent hundreds of panicked shoppers stampeding down the cobbled streets of the old city, fleeing explosions and bullets.

Belgian authorities identified the shooter as Nordine Amrani, a 33-year-old Liege resident who had done jail time for offenses involving guns and drugs, and had been called in for questioning Tuesday in a sexual abuse case.

Officials said Amrani left his home with a backpack, armed with hand grenades, a revolver and an FAL assault rifle. He walked alone to the busy Place Saint-Lambert, the central entry point to downtown shopping streets, then climbed onto an overpass that gave him an ideal view of the square, which was bedecked with a huge Christmas tree and crowded with shoppers.

From there, Amrani lobbed three hand grenades toward a central bus stop, which serves 1,800 buses a day, and opened fire. The explosions sent shards of glass from the bus shelter across a wide area.

"I heard a loud boom," said Dimitri Degryse, who was driving near the square. "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."

Hundreds fled the square as well as a nearby Christmas market. Video showed people, including a large group of preschoolers, rushing to seek cover, some still carrying shopping bags.

Amrani died at the scene, but Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders told reporters he was not killed by police. It was unclear if he committed suicide or died by accident, though he still had a number of grenades with him.

Those killed were two boys ages 15 and 17, a 75-year-old woman, and an 18-month-old toddler who died Tuesday evening in the hospital, Liege police said.

As police hunted for possible accomplices, residents were ordered to stay in their homes or seek shelter in shops or public buildings. Sirens blared and a police chopper roared overhead, and 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 a few hours later.

The Place Saint-Lambert and the nearby Place du Marche host Liege's annual Christmas market, which features 200 shops and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year. A nearby Ferris wheel is also a central attraction.

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.

Di Rupo stressed the attack was the act of a lone assailant, a man known to police who had no links to terrorism. "The whole country shares in the pain. This is an isolated case. This is not about terrorism," he said.

Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister who is now president of the European Council, said he was badly shaken by the attack.

"There is no explanation whatsoever," Van Rompuy said. "It leaves me perplexed and shocked."

While such attacks are unusual in Western Europe, the continent has not been immune to such violence.

There was another deadly shooting Tuesday in Italy, where a man opened fire in an outdoor market in Florence, killing two vendors from Senegal and wounding three other Senegalese before killing himself, authorities said.

Investigators identified the attacker as 50-year-old Gianluca Casseri, and RAI state TV said he was known to police for having participated in racist marches by an extreme right-wing group.

In Norway last July, far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik went on a bomb and shooting spree that killed 77 people in Oslo and an island retreat, apparently motivated by a hatred of Muslim immigrants and a deep grudge against the governing Labor Party. A psychiatric evaluation found him criminally insane, which if upheld by the courts means he would end up in compulsory psychiatric care instead of prison.

____

AP correspondents Don Melvin, Gabriele Steinhauser and Robert Wielaard in Brussels contributed to this report.



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: News, mass casualty, international EMS, Belgium, active shooter

 
What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox

 

Fire EMS Blogs


Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts

 

EMS Airway Clinic

Mechanical CPR is Producing Resuscitation Results Beyond Expectations

Discover why clinical studies are finding mechanical CPR just as effective as optimally-performed CPR.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

New Technology Helps Missouri Ambulances

Strategic GPS tracking helps in Springfield.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Profile: Hospital Wing Air Ambulance

Take a look inside this Memphis service.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

New Monitors for Wyoming EMS

Grant helps Torrington EMS get new equipment.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

London Medics Increasingly Attacked

One medic describes her violent confrontation.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

Violence, Arson in Ferguson

Crowds in Ferguson and elsewhere react to decision.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

California Bus Rollover

One killed and dozens injured.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

Buffalo Residents Dig Out and Prepare for Flooding

Flooding expected as heavy snow melts.
More >


Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

LMA MAD Nasal™

Needle-free intranasal drug delivery.
Watch It >


Multimedia Thumb

VividTrac offered by Vivid Medical - EMS Today 2013

VividTrac, affordable high performance video intubation device.
Watch It >


More Product Videos >