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Belgian prosecutors open 'terror' probe over knife attack

BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgian prosecutors have opened an "attempted terrorist murder" probe after a knife-wielding man assaulted three soldiers and was shot dead by troops in Brussels. The Federal Prosecutor's Office said in a statement Saturday that the man was known to police for assault charges, but had no previous terror-related offenses.

The suspect allegedly attacked the soldiers from behind with a knife in central Brussels Friday evening while shouting "Allahu akbar," Arabic for "God is great." The statement said he was shot twice, and that two soldiers received superficial wounds. The man was also carrying a fake firearm and two copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

The statement said he was around 30 years old and a Belgian national of Somali origin. Authorities searched his home overnight in the city of Bruges, around 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Brussels. Prosecutors declined to provide further details.

Belgium has been on high alert since suicide bombers killed 32 people at the main Brussels airport and a subway station on March 22, 2016. Soldiers and extra police have been deployed at public buildings and around large gatherings ever since.

Friday's incident happened in an area with many bars and restaurants and not far from the Grand Place historic square, a major tourist attraction. In a separate statement Saturday, the Brussels city prosecutor's office said it had opened a use of force inquiry into the suspect's shooting, a standard procedure when security forces discharge their weapons.

It said the soldiers were probably justified in shooting the suspect. "Initial findings from the inquiry show that the soldiers twice opened fire on the suspect after he stabbed them with the knife. These shots came, therefore, in the context of legitimate defense in line with the (troops') rules of engagement," the city prosecutors said.

The prosecutors said they would make a final ruling once the results of an autopsy on the suspect and ballistic tests are known.

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