Belgian authorities are still investigating an attack by a machete-wielding man on two policewomen but are treating it for now as an act of terror, the country’s prime minister said Sunday.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said the attacker’s shouts of “Allahu akbar!” as he slashed at the officers outside the Charleroi police station Saturday were a notable factor in the authorities’ decision. The Belgian federal prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into what it deems a case of “attempted terrorist murder,” Michel said.
The assailant, who has not yet been identified by Belgian law enforcement, was fatally shot as he attacked the officers. One officer was badly wounded in the face.
Michel spoke to reporters following an emergency meeting with top Belgian law enforcement officials. The prime minister cut short his vacation in the south of France to hurry back to Brussels after the attack in the southern Belgian city.
“We must keep a cool head,” Michel said. “We must avoid panic, of course — not give in to terror. That’s the trap that has been set for us.”
Michel said prosecutors are expected to release information about the Charleroi attacker later Sunday.
Belgium has been on high alert since the March 22 suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State extremists that killed 32 people in Brussels. Many of the perpetrators of the Nov. 13 carnage in Paris that killed 130 people were also residents of Belgium.
“We know we must be constantly, constantly vigilant,” Michel said.
Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput said the government’s Crisis Center would meet to determine if additional measures should be taken to protect police buildings and staff.
On Sunday, Charleroi police posted a request on their Twitter account asking reporters not to divulge officers’ identities.
“We are targets,” Charleroi police explained.