Gunman kills five during rampage in heart of city


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The Independent Online

The cobblestone streets of Liège were turned into a bloody battlefield yesterday as a convicted criminal with a penchant for guns opened fire on Christmas shoppers, killing five people and wounding more than 70. The gunman also died in the attack.

Shoppers dived for cover shortly after noon as a series of explosions and gunfire erupted across the Belgian city's main square, Place Saint Lambert. Witnesses described seeing a man hurling grenades from the roof of a bakery overlooking the square at bystanders waiting for a bus. He then followed up with repeated bursts from an automatic rifle.

Police named the attacker as Nordine Amrani, a 33-year-old convicted drug dealer with a passion for collecting illegal weapons.

His victims included two teenagers who had just finished an exam, a 20-year-old man and a 75-year-old woman according to the city's public prosecutor. Last night surgeons lost the battle to save a two-year-old girl who died of her injuries. A further four patients were in a critical condition.

One of the dead teenagers was named as Pierre Gerouville. Tributes poured in to a Facebook page set up to honour the 17-year-old. "I can't find the words," wrote one of his friends. "You left too soon, we'll never forget you."

Amrani died in the attack but police say he was not brought down by their fire. "It's uncertain yet whether he killed himself or whether his weapons exploded," said public prosecutor Danielle Reynders. Immediately after the assault confusion reigned as shoppers ran for cover and desperately tried to work out whether there were multiple gunmen. Place Saint Lambert is a busy thoroughfare and close to a popular Christmas market. "We heard two huge deafening noises and then lots of explosions, people were running everywhere," a baker named only as Patricia said on RTL-TV. "We closed the door, turned off the lights and hid behind the counter with the customers."

Officials have dismissed any link to international terrorism.