Belgium’s police raid on violent group leaves one suspect dead

A police raid on a violent group of far-right sympathisers in Belgium leaves one person dead in Antwerp.

A police raid on a violent group of far-right sympathisers in Belgium has left one person dead in the province of Antwerp, according to a statement by the federal prosecutor’s office.

A dozen searches were carried out in seven different municipalities, including Antwerp and Ghent, as part of an investigation into “the preparation of terrorist attack and the violation of the legislation on weapons”, the statement said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said “many weapons and ammunition” were seized in the raids, but some of the weapons were legally registered.

“[During one of the raids] an exchange of gunfire occurred between law enforcement and one of several people inside a building. This person died.”

The Antwerp prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the circumstances of the suspect’s death.

The office told the Associated Press news agency that a 36-year-old man allegedly shot at police when they tried to enter his home and that an exchange of fire ensued.

The office said emergency services intervened, but the man did not survive.

‘Extreme far-right’

A spokesperson for federal prosecutors told Reuters news agency that “some of the people are suspected of being close to the extreme right”, but declined to say how many people had been detained.

According to Belgian broadcaster VRT, the man shot dead was a gold and silver trader who collected weapons and military items.

Belgian public broadcaster RTBF added that he had expressed his interest in far-right theories and opposition to the Belgian government’s measures during the coronavirus pandemic on social media.

He also criticised the strategy of the United States, NATO and Europe in dealing with Russia.

Last weekend, four Dutch suspects were arrested over what prosecutors described as a plan to kidnap Belgium’s Justice Minister, Vincent Van Quickenborne.

However, it is unknown if that incident was linked to Wednesday’s raids.

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