One day after a man went on a shooting rampage in the Belgian city of Liege, police announced that they found the body of a woman at the assailant's home.
The woman was in her 40s and was discovered during a search of attacker Nordine Amrani's property in Liege. "It was a cleaning lady," said Liege Prosecutor Daniele Reynders on Wednesday morning. "She died with a bullet in the head."
The killing spree at Place Saint Lambert square in the Liege city center left an additional three people dead, including two teenage boys aged 15 and 17 and a 17-month-old toddler who succumbed on Tuesday evening to injuries sustained during the attack.
Amrani's former attorney expressed shock over the killings. "I never would have believed that he was capable of something like this," said Brussels-based defense attorney Abdelhadi Amrani, who had represented the killer years ago on other charges and is unrelated to Nordine.
During his attack, the perpetrator threw stun grenades and then fired into the crowd before committing suicide. The two teenage boys died on site. A 75-year-old woman who had been reported dead by many news agencies on Tuesday is actually in critical condition along with four others. The 75-year-old is not expected to survive.
Attack Took Place Near Popular Christmas Market
The massacre occurred during the lunch hour near the city's popular Christmas market, which attracts up to 1.5 million visitors per year. At least 125 people were injured and several remain in critical condition, including one 20-year-old man who sustained brain injuries. Many of the victims were struck by bullets or shards of glass.
Liege had previously spent time in jail after his convictions on weapons and drugs charges. Police in Liege described the man as a "gun freak." He had been ordered to appear before the police for questioning on Tuesday, but failed to turn up.
The Liege daily Le Meuse is reporting on its website that Amrani had made a transfer of money to his girlfriend on Monday prior to the killing spree. The wire also included the message: "I love you my dear. Good luck!"
According to the English website of Belgian public broadcaster VRT, Amrani's current attorney, Jean-Francois Dister, stated: "It had been planned that Amrani would be questioned by the Liège police about fresh allegations relating to sexual offenses. He was very nervous. He felt he had nothing to do with this new case, but didn't know what would happen and feared that he would be sent back to prison."
Instead, he made his way to the city center, armed with an FAL assault rifle, a handgun and numerous grenades that he carried in his backpack. He struck at 12:30 p.m. at Place Saint Lambert square, only a short distance from the Christmas market. He threw grenades at a bus shelter, which sent glass splinters flying, and then opened fire. Hundreds of people ran from the scene.
The bloodbath has sparked deep anger and mourning in Belgium. Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and King Albert II both visited the site of the slayings. "The entire country feels the pain," Di Rupo said, addressing the victims' families. He said the perpetrator had acted alone and the crime was not being treated as a suspected case of terror. "It was an isolated act which has sown sorrow in the heart of the city," Mayor Willy Demeyer said. The government in Brussels scheduled a special cabinet meeting for Wednesday morning to discuss the case. Belgium's parliament also expressed its condolences to the victims on Wednesday morning.
But some have also asked critical questions, like how a man under police observation previously convicted on arms charges could have been allowed to build up a new cache of weapons unnoticed by law enforcement officials.
In neighboring Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also expressed his grief over the tragic development. "We are mourning together with Belgium the victims of this crime," he said. "Our sympathies go out to their families and friends. We also wish a swift recovery to the injured."
dsl -- with wires
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