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The Liège attack will resuscitate the debate on radicalization in prison

(B2) Since the attacks of March 2016, Belgium seemed to have returned to a calmer zone, even if the lid was barely put on a difficult situation. The attack in Liège brings the question of radicalization and prison, if not pure terrorism, to the forefront of the news.

King Philippe and Prime Minister Charles Michel quickly traveled to the city of Liège (credit: Premier / federal police)

A knife attack

It was around 10:30 a.m. in the center of Liège near the Café des Antonins on Boulevard d'Avroy when a man arrived behind two police officers on the public highway, fatally attacking them with a knife. He takes the opportunity to steal the weapon from one of the police officers. He then heads to the nearby Athénée Léonie de Waha (one of the city's big high schools). In passing, he shot and killed a 22-year-old who was in a vehicle parked on the side. In the high school, he takes a female servant hostage.

A penetration in a high school in Liège

The police (notably the anti-banditry squad) intervene quickly and kill the attacker. The final toll: three killed as well as the perpetrator of the shots. Four police officers were injured by bullets: two plainclothes police officers from the judicial brigade in the arm and two men from the anti-banditry squad in the leg, one of them more lightly injured was able to leave the hospital this Tuesday evening. All the students were confined in the classrooms first, then gathered in the Botanical Garden, under police protection.

terrorist elements

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office was contacted, indicating that there were terrorist elements in this attack. “ The assassin's objective was to attack the police, which he did from the outset by hiding behind the two police officers, and after having stabbed them savagely in the back » indicates Christian Beaupère, the Liège police chief, during a press conference this morning in Liège.

A radicalization in prison

Very quickly, the name of the perpetrator appeared: Benjamin Herman, a 36-year-old man from Rochefort, convicted in particular of drug trafficking and various acts of delinquency. Detained in the prison of Marche-en-Famenne (a modern prison), it was " on two-day prison leave to prepare for his reintegration with a view to his release scheduled for 2020 » indicates the RTBF. They are " converted to Islam while dating another prisoner in Arlon » and radicalized in prison, confirmed Justice Minister Koen Geens during an interview on La Première on Wednesday morning (May 30). He had been on file since 2017 by State Security.

The targeted policy

For the mayor of Liège, Willy Demeyer, “ it was the police [especially] who were targeted and not so much the population. " Several signs indicate this ". " He's a lone wolf » confirmed for his part the Minister of Justice Koen Geens. OCAM, the alert assessment office, has maintained level 2 of the main alert.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Updated Wednesday, May 30

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).