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Pictured: Police and bystander killed in Liege attack

The gunman also killed a 22-year-old male car passenger on the Boulevard d’Avory, before taking a female cleaner hostage at a nearby high school.

She was released when police shot dead the attacker, who has been named by local media as Belgian national Benjamin Herman.

Police officer in Liege
Image:A police officer at the major incident in Liege

The 36-year-old was released from prison on Monday for a few hours but he failed to return. He was serving time for drug offences, media reported.

Pictured: Police and bystander killed in Liege attack
Pictured: Police and bystander killed in Liege attack

It is thought he may have been radicalised in jail. An AFP source close to the investigation he had contacts with radical Islamists and had “been reported or presumed to be belonging to the entourage of an Islamist recruiter”.

The incident is being treated as terrorism and Liege police chief Christian Beaupere said the attacker’s goal was to “target police”.

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Video:Police rush to scene of Belgium attack

Officials say he approached the officers from behind and stabbed them repeatedly before taking their weapons and shooting them.

Prosecutor Philippe Dulieu said: “Armed with a knife, the suspect followed and attacked two police officers, and used their own firearms to kill them.”

“He continued on foot, attacking a parked vehicle where he opened fire on a 22-year-old man in the passenger seat. The young man died.

“He then continued and entered the Leonie de Waha school. He took a woman working there as hostage.

Forensics officers examine the scene in Liege
Image:Forensics officers examine the scene in Liege

“Police intervened, he came out firing on the police officers, wounding several before he was killed.”

The governor of Liege province, Herve Jamar, said no-one was injured during the high school hostage-taking and all students were safe.

Authorities said terrorism could not be ruled out and media reports said the man shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “God is greatest” in Arabic.

A senior official at the prosecutor’s office told reporters “there are indications it could be a terror attack”.

A police officer speaks with parents of children at a nearby high schoo
Image:A police officer pictured with parents of children at a nearby high school

Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, said there were “elements that point in the direction that this is a terrorist act”.

Interior minister Jan Jambon said the anti-terrorist crisis centre was monitoring the situation which began to unfold at around 8.30am GMT.

Mr Jambon said: “Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act. We are in the process of establishing an overview of exactly what happened.”

The crisis centre said a security cordon had been set up around the area and urged people to stay away.

The attacker was shot down after being confronted by police
Image:The attacker was shot after being confronted by police

“It (terrorism) is one of the questions on the table, but for the moment all scenarios are open,” a spokesman for the crisis centre said.

Images on social media showed people scurrying for safety on Liege’s central boulevard d’Avroy with shots and sirens being heard in the background.

One video showed two police officers in body armour moving into position.

Prime Minister Charles Michel said his thoughts were with the families of the victims after what he called a “serious incident” but added he would not give further details at this stage.

An ambulance at the scene of the shooting in Liege
Image:An ambulance at the scene of the shooting in Liege

Theresa May said the UK would stand together with its allies in the fight against terror.

The Prime Minister tweeted: “My thoughts are with the victims of today’s cowardly attack in Belgium and their grieving families.

“The UK stands resolute with our Belgian allies against terror.”

French President Emmanuel Macron voiced “solidarity” with Belgium, condemning it as a “terrible attack”.

Authorities said it was unlikely the terror threat level for Belgium would be raised.

Liege is an industrial city close to the German border in the French-speaking Wallonia region.

It was the scene of a shooting in 2011 when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 before turning the gun on himself.

Belgium has been on high alert since a Brussels-based Islamic State cell was involved in attacks on Paris in 2015 that killed 130 people and Brussels in 2016 in which 32 died.

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