BELGIUM

Belgium police hunt Brussels Jewish Museum shooter as France tightens security

Police release footage of shooter at museum as fourth victim dies from 'anti-Semitic attack'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 8:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 5:17am

Belgium's Jewish community was placed on high alert yesterday as police hunted for a gunman who killed four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in an attack blamed on growing anti-Semitism.

An Israeli tourist couple and a French woman died from gunshots to the face and neck after a man apparently acting alone fired two successive rounds into the museum on Saturday afternoon before escaping minutes later on foot.

A fourth victim, a Belgian who did volunteer work for the museum, died from his wounds in hospital yesterday.

The first such attack in more than 30 years in Belgium has revived fears of a return of violent anti-Semitism to Europe, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu notably lashing out at Europe's "hypocrisy" in its attitude towards the Jewish state.

Appealing to the public to help police identify the gunman in a national manhunt, deputy public prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said he "probably" acted alone and was "well prepared and well armed".

She added that as there was no claim "I cannot confirm that it is a terrorist or anti-Semitic act" but "all leads remain open".

French President Francois Hollande, who along with Netanyahu had a phone conversation with the Belgian premier, said he had no doubt about the "anti-Semitic character" of the attack.

Netanyahu, welcoming Pope Francis in the Holy Land, hailed the pontiff for his "determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days."

The pope said he was deeply saddened by the shooting.

The head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, met Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo after talks with community leaders and Home Affairs Minister Joelle Milquet.

The government was beefing up protection with 24/7 police protection at schools, synagogues and cultural centres in line with a decision to place Jewish institutions under maximum security, Milquet said.

"These measures will remain in place for now," a government statement said.

In France, meanwhile, two Jewish brothers dressed in "traditional" clothes were attacked near a synagogue in the Paris area. Interior Minister Bernard Caseneuve ordered police to increase security at Jewish houses of worship.

The young men were attacked by two others near the synagogue in Creteil, a southeast Paris suburb, on Saturday evening. One of them was severely injured after being struck in the eye with brass knuckles.

Additional reporting by Associated Press