Three people have been killed and one person injured in a shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum on the eve of elections in Belgium, with Joëlle Milquet, the Interior Minister, saying it had all the hallmarks of an anti-Semitic attack.
A car stopped at the museum’s entrance in a narrow, cobbled street in the city’s historic centre at around 4pm, La Libre newspaper reported. A passenger was said to have got out and sprayed passers-by with gunfire before getting back in the car. The broadcaster RTBF, however, said a young man with a backpack entered the museum and opened fire.
The fire service confirmed that two women and one man had been killed, but gave no further details. A second man was critically wounded in the attack. A further 12 people were treated for shock.
The Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, said later that police arrested a man believed to have driven away from the scene and were questioning him. A second man, who escaped on foot, was still being sought.
Didier Reynders, the Foreign Minister, said he was “shocked by the killings” and his “thoughts are with the victims and their families”.
Ms Milquet was on the scene as police cordoned off the area. “It is likely this is an anti-Semitic attack,” La Libre quoted her as saying.
The attack came a day before the general elections, with the campaign mainly fought on economic issues and the future of the Dutch-speaking northern Flanders region, where many citizens are expected to vote for a party that wants to separate from the French-speaking south.
The Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism lobbied the mayor of a Brussels suburb last month to ban a gathering of the small far-right group Stand Up Belgians, which it said would be “the worst gathering of anti-Semitic authors, theoreticians and propagandists in our country since the Second World War”.
Maurice Sosnowski, president of an umbrella group of Jewish organisations, told Belgian media that the Jewish Museum appeared not to have received any threats.
The attack comes less than two weeks before the visit by President Barack Obama and six other world leaders at a summit meeting of the G7. The heavy security that attended Mr Obama’s last visit earlier this year, with whole areas of Brussels cordoned off, is likely to be in evidence once more for the event.