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Muslim in Brussels Counter-Terror Shoot Out was a MIGRANT, Islamic State Flag, Prayer Books Found

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting:  Authorities here found an Islamic State flag inside the apartment where an hours long battle between gunmen and police investigating the November Paris attacks left one suspect dead, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Belgian authorities said a police sniper shot and killed the suspect, 35-year-old Mohamed Belkaid, an Algerian national who was in Belgium illegally and hadn’t been monitored as an extremist threat.

Prosecutors said they believe two people, who were in the apartment at the time of the French-Belgian police raid, fled the scene. They are still being sought, prosecutors said, and their identity is unknown.

Two other people who were arrested Tuesday night after the gunfight were released on Wednesday, prosecutors said.

They didn’t say whether they have determined if Mr. Belkaid or the other suspects had a direct connection to the Paris attacks.

Investigators searching the apartment also found a book on Salafism, an ultraconservative form of Islam, authorities said. The police officers returned fire and retreated, prosecutors said. Police then called in a special team of reinforcements.

In the hours after the initial raid, prosecutors said, at least two gunmen in the apartment repeatedly fired through a window at police on the street below. A police sniper saw Mr. Belkaid take aim at police on the street and fired the shot that killed him, prosecutors said.

When police entered the apartment they found Mr. Belkaid’s body with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Police also later found 11 rifle magazines in the apartment and numerous spent shells, but no explosives.

Four police officers received minor injuries over the course of the standoff. Prosecutors said one officer was struck in the chest during the initial raid, but the bullet was deflected by a protective vest.

On Tuesday night, police arrested a man after he was brought to a hospital in Hal, south of Brussels, with a broken leg, and another man was detained for questioning after a house raid. Both men were released by a judge on Wednesday, authorities said, without any charges.

Police also searched another house in Forest after two full Kalashnikov magazines and a black piece of clothing were found near the building. Inside that building, police found another Kalashnikov assault rifle, prosecutors said.

“We don’t know all the people who live here,” he said, adding he didn’t know whether the house was inhabited or who owns it.

Forest, home to about 50,000 inhabitants, is one of the wealthier of the 19 districts that make up the region of Brussels.

Mr. Ghyssels said five to 10 inhabitants of Forest have been signaled as having left for Syria to join jihadist movements, or wanting to do so.

Micheline Wenne, a 59-year-old resident of Forest who lives a few hundred yards from the scene, said the area is particularly calm and quiet. “Maybe that’s why they chose to come here.”

Mr. Ghyssels said Forest lacks the means to track the whereabouts of all its citizens. “We have one agent per 4,000 inhabitants,” he said. “That’s not enough. We will investigate how we can improve how we work.”

Belgian authorities said more than 100 house searches have been conducted since the terror attacks in Paris. Belgian authorities have detained and questioned 58 people as part of the direct investigation of the Paris attack. Another 23 people were questioned in related investigations.

Suspect Killed In Brussels Counter-Terror Raid Was Illegal Algerian Migrant,” By AFP, March 16, 2016:

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian investigators were hunting Wednesday for two suspects who fled an apartment linked to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, after a police sniper killed a third man and uncovered weapons, ammunition and an Islamic State flag, officials said Wednesday.

Four officers were wounded in the joint French-Belgian raid in a Brussels neighborhood and related searches.

Officials said the hunt is on for two more suspects who have not been identified. Two people were in custody.

The dead man was identified as an Algerian man living illegally in Belgium, Mohamed Belkaid, whose only contact with authorities appeared to be a years-old theft charge, said Thierry Werts, the Belgian federal prosecutor.

Belkaid, 35, was shot to death by a police sniper as he prepared to fire from a window, Werts said. Police also detained one man who was dropped off at a nearby hospital with a broken leg and another found in an overnight house search.

Werts and Eric Van der Spyt, his office’s spokesman, said a decision would be made later on whether to hold or release the two.

The patient with the broken leg has not yet been questioned, they said.

The anti-terror raid in the Forest neighborhood was linked to the Nov. 13 gun-and-bombing attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall in Paris that left 130 people dead.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, in which Belgian citizens played key roles.

Since the Paris attacks, the officials said 58 people have been arrested in the direct investigation and another 23 arrested in related probes.


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