Brussels police stabbing: Suspect served in Belgian army and ran for local elections in years before terror attack

Hicham Diop, 43, remains in custody after stabbing two police officers in Belgium

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The Independent Online

A man accused of stabbing two police officers in Brussels in a suspected terror attack is a former soldier in the Belgian military and once ran for political office, it has emerged.

Hicham Diop, 43, remains in custody following Wednesday’s attack in the Belgian capital, which remains on high alert following Isis bombings targeting its main airport and a Metro station earlier this year.

The Belgian national has been charged with attempted murder “in a terrorist context” and participation in the activities of a terrorist group, prosecutors said.

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Blood at the scene of a stabbing attack against two police officers in the Schaerbeek district (AP)

They did not specify which group the extremist was linked to but local reports strongly suggested inspiration from the so-called Islamic State, claiming Diop was previously known to authorities for having contact with fighters in Syria.

Investigators said he served in the Belgian army until 2009 and unsuccessfully ran in the Brussels regional elections in 2004.

Government documents seen by The Independent show he was registered for the Citizenship and Prosperity Party (Parti citoyenneté prospérité), an Islamist group that has since dissolved.

Diop, who reportedly has several children including a five-month old baby, ran for the regional parliament in Brussels and won 200 votes.

In an interview with Belgium’s La Dernière Heure newspaper, his mother said she had noticed no recent changes in her son’s behaviour.

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A knife lies on the ground at the scene of the attack (AP)

“Why would he go and stab police officers?” the unnamed woman asked. “My son is a decent man, he was even in the Belgian army for a long time.

“Hicham is very sporty, he is also a boxer. He has never had any problems with the law.”

He is accused of stabbing two uniformed police officers in the district of Schaerbeek at around noon on Wednesday with a military-style knife.

One was wounded in the neck and another in the abdomen before a second patrol approached. Diop broke one officer’s nose before he was shot in the leg and subdued.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place less than a mile from a hideout used by a group of Isis militants who killed more than 30 people in blasts at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek Metro station.

They are believed to have manufactured their explosives in the apartment, before filling a taxi with suitcase bombs on their way to the airport.

The Belgian federal prosceutor’s office said Diop lived in Schaerbeek, with investigators searching his home in the Avenue de la Reine.

No weapons or explosives were found but officers have since arrested his brother, Aboubaker Diop. Both remain in custody.

“The provisional results of the investigation indicate that it would be a potential terrorist attack,” a spokesperson said.

It comes after a string of stabbings in Belgium, where two other police officers were wounded by a machete-wielding man shouting “Allahu Akbar” in the city of Mons in August. The attacker was shot dead and Isis claimed responsibility.

In September, a man carrying a knife attacked two police officers in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, but the officers were wearing bulletproof vests and suffered only bruises.

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