Monday night was turbulent for the people of Brussels as a Euro 2024 qualifying game between Belgium and Sweden was abandoned at halftime following shootings in the city.
The police authority can confirm that two Swedish fans were shot dead by a suspected gunman, and after learning of the incident, the Swedish team refused to come out for the second half of the encounter that was delicately poised at halftime.
The European Championship qualifier was being played some three miles from the shooting in the centre of the Belgian capital, and more than 35,000 fans attended the match. Sweden needed a win to keep hopes alive, but all that didn’t matter anymore at halftime.
With the suspect still at large and reportedly going after Swedes, Belgian authorities kept fans inside the venue to ensure the safety of the spectators before they started the evacuation around midnight local time in Brussels.
Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said earlier that the Belgian police shot and wounded a 45-year-old Tunisian suspected of killing two Swedish football fans in Brussels. The suspect was shot in a cafe on Tuesday, Belgian media said. There was no immediate official confirmation of his death.
"The weapon with which the attacks were committed has been found this morning, where the man was apprehended in [the Brussels borough of] Schaerbeek. That makes the likelihood that the perpetrator has been caught bigger," Verlinden told VRT broadcaster.
"We are checking fingerprints to be 100% sure."
Eric Van Duyse, spokesperson for the federal prosecutor's office, told reporters the investigation was centred on "a possible terrorist motivation for the shooting." He went on to assure people of a thorough investigation.
"During the evening, a claim of responsibility was posted on social media, having been recorded by a person claiming to be the assailant. This person claims to be inspired by the Islamic State," Van Duyse said. "The Swedish nationality of the victims was put forward as the probable motive for the act. At this time, no element indicates a possible link with the Israeli-Palestinian situation."