Cops probe 'terrorist attack' after deadly Belgium shooting

While the motive behind the attack is unknown, local media is reporting the gunman had only been released from prison on Monday and that he may have been radicalised while in jail.

Police and ambulance are seen at the site where a gunman shot dead three people, two of them policemen, before being killed by elite officers, in the eastern Belgian city of Liege on 29 May 2018. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG/LIEGE - Authorities in Belgium have confirmed they're treating Tuesday's deadly shooting in the city of liege as a terrorist attack.

A man opened fire, killing two police officers and a nearby driver.

The gunman took a female cleaner hostage at a school before being killed by police.

While the motive behind the attack is unknown, local media is reporting the gunman had only been released from prison on Monday and that he may have been radicalised while in jail.

Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel says he's following the situation closely and has expressed his support for those caught up in the shooting.

The national crisis centre, on high alert since past attacks by Islamic State in Paris and Brussels, is also investigating.

RTBF named the alleged assailant as a 36-year-old Belgian. He was serving time for drug offences and classified as “unstable”, according to RTBF. It remained unclear how the incident, during which pupils at a nearby high school were moved to a place of safety, had unfolded.

“The children in the local schools are safe,” Liege city authorities said on Twitter, adding that apart from the two police officers the passenger in a car had been killed.

RTBF said the man may have attacked the police officers with a box-cutter and then seized one of their weapons.

La Libre Belgique newspaper quoted a police source as saying the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar” - God is greatest in Arabic - and RTBF said investigators were looking into whether he might have been converted to Islam and radicalized in prison.

Federal prosecutors took over the investigation, a further indication that a terrorist motive was possible.

RTBF said the attacker had a history of minor criminal convictions but was not on a list of possible violent extremists.

Two other police officers had been injured, a spokeswoman for the Liege public prosecutors office 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.

Liege, the biggest city in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region, was the scene of a mass shooting in 2011, when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 others 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.

The Brussels IS cell had links to militants in Verviers, another industrial town close to Liege, where in early 2015 police raided a safe house and killed two men who had returned from fighting with radical Islamists in Syria.