Friday, May 24, 2024

Gunman kills two Swedes in Brussels, soccer match between Belgium and Sweden suspended

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Thousands of soccer fans were trapped inside Belgium’s national stadium for about two and a half hours on Monday after the match between Belgium and Sweden was suspended at halftime after a fatal shooting. Ta. Two Swedes shot dead in Brussels Before kickoff.

More than 35,000 fans watched the European Championship qualifier, which was held about five kilometers from the shooting incident in the heart of the Belgian capital. With the suspect still at large and hunting the Swede, Belgian authorities kept fans inside the venue for safety reasons and began evacuation around midnight local time.

After the match was stopped, fans chanted “We’re all together, we’re all together” inside King Baudoin Stadium, while thousands of supporters of both teams also chanted “Sweden, Sweden!”

Manu Leroy, chief executive of the Belgian Football Association, said it was discovered 10 minutes before kick-off that “something serious” had happened in downtown Brussels.

“The reason we decided to hold the game in the first place was because the stadium was the safest place at the time, so the fans could be here and be safe,” he said.

Eric Van Duys, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office, told reporters the investigation is focused on “a possible terrorist motive for the shooting.”

“In the evening, a recorded statement of the crime was posted on social media by a person claiming to be the perpetrator, who claims to have been inspired by the Islamic State,” Van Duys said. “It was claimed that the victim’s Swedish nationality was a possible motive for this act. At this time, there are no factors suggesting a connection to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.”

Van Dujse added: “Safety measures have been taken urgently to protect the Swedish supporters.”

Fans remained patient until late into the night, still chanting as midnight approached.

Leroy said the Swedish fans were the last to leave the stadium, adding: “They will obviously go straight to the airport and leave as the police will escort the Swedish fans and players.”

“Police will set up a safe passageway for Swedish fans to return home safely,” he said.

Scenes of fans trapped in major stadiums in Europe are similar to those at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris, when France’s national stadium was attacked by Islamic State militants during a match against Islamic State. It reminded me. France and Germany on November 13, 2015.

European football governing body UEFA has confirmed that the match between Belgium and Sweden has been cancelled.

UEFA said: “Following a suspected terrorist attack in Brussels tonight, after consultation with both teams and the local law enforcement authorities, it has been decided to cancel the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying match between Belgium and Sweden.”

Belgium had already qualified for next year’s championship in Germany. Romelu Lukaku canceled out Victor Gokeres’ opening goal and the teams were tied 1-1 at half-time.

According to Swedish media, some Swedish fans were allowed to leave the stands and enter a media room inside the stadium. Peter Lindqvist, one of the fans at the stadium, told Expressen newspaper that fans spoke English and were encouraged to take taxis once they were allowed to leave the stadium.

Players and officials supported the decision to cancel the match.

“I found out during the break that the decision of all the players and the coach, including us and Belgium, was clear: we couldn’t play. It’s completely disgusting,” Sweden coach Janne Andersson said. . “It makes me very sad. This is very tragic and my thoughts go out to those affected and their families. What kind of world are we living in?”

Belgium’s crisis center has raised Brussels’ threat level to the highest possible level and urged citizens to avoid unnecessary travel.

The Swedish FA earlier said in a message to local Swedish supporters that Belgian police had asked fans to remain in the arena for safety reasons.

“We ask everyone to remain calm and take care of each other,” the FA said. “Our thoughts are with all the relatives of those affected in Brussels.”

Sweden raised its terror alert status to its second-highest level in August after a series of incidents of Koran burning in public places by Iraqi refugees living in Sweden exposed the country to threats from Islamic militants.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo suggested the attack, which occurred more than an hour before the match, was linked to “terrorism”.

“A horrifying shooting incident occurred in Brussels and the hunt for the perpetrators is actively underway,” Interior Minister Anneliese Verlinden said, adding that she would take part in government consultations at the National Crisis Center.


AP Soccer:


Douglas reported from Sundsvall, Sweden. Associated Press writers Raf Cassart and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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