Belgium's prime minister announces "terror" probe into machete attack that wounded two policewomen

Belgium's prime minister announces "terror" probe into machete attack that wounded two policewomen

Belgium's prime minister has announced a "terror" probe into a machete attack that wounded two policewomen, in what appeared to be the latest in a string of jihadist attacks in Europe.

"We have been informed by federal prosecutors that an investigation has started for attempted terrorist murder... given certain elements (in the case)," Charles Michel told reporters.

The prime minister was referring to the attacker's cry of "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) during the assault in front of a police station. 

The attack in the city of Charleroi, around 60km south of Brussels, left one of the officers with "deep wounds to the face" while the other was slightly injured.

The attacker, who was shot by a third officer subsequently died of his injuries.

Islamist bombers killed 32 people in suicide attacks in Brussels in March, and many of the jihadists who carried out attacks on Paris last November in which 130 people died were based in Belgium.

Those attacks were claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which controls large areas of territory in Iraq and Syria and has claimed numerous terror attacks in Europe in the last year.

Belgian police have carried out dozens of anti-terror raids since the attacks in Paris.

Last month they arrested and charged a 33-year-old man, identified as Nourredine H, with attempting to commit "terrorist murder" and "taking part in the activities of a terrorist organisation".

Prosecutors said there was, for now, no link to the Brussels suicide bombings.

Belgium is the main source per head of population of jihadist recruits going from European Union countries to fight with IS in Syria, causing deep concern that they will return home battle-hardened and even more radicalised.

The interior ministry said 457 Belgian men and women had gone or tried to join jihadists in the Middle East, including 90 who are missing or dead.

Belgium launched its first attacks against IS in Iraq in late 2014 as part of a US-led coalition. It joined a similar anti-IS operation in Syria this year.

Several of those involved in the Brussels bloodshed in March were directly linked to the 13 November attacks in Paris.

In June, Belgian authorities charged two men with terrorist offences amid reports of a planned attack on a Euro 2016 fanzone in central Brussels.

Belgium then beefed up security for its 21 July national day celebrations after a truck attack that killed 85 people in the French city of Nice on Bastille Day on 14 July.