Police officers work outside a house where a police officer was killed during an operation in Lodelinsart, Belgium, 18 March 2024. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Shoot-out in Belgium leaves one police officer dead and two wounded


A Belgian police raid targeting a suspect allegedly involved in illegal car dealing, drugs and arms trafficking became deadly.

One officer was killed, with a second left fighting for life. The alleged perpetrator also died.

In the early hours of March 18, elite Belgian police from the Directorate of Special Units (DSU) were called in to tackle a reportedly dangerous suspect in a house in the city of Charleroi.

The suspected criminal was lying in waiting for them and, as the elite units entered the house, he opened fire, hitting three officers.

The police retreated to attend to the injured and reinforcements were called in.

One 36-year-old officer was killed, while his 33-year-old comrade was seriously injured and is now in intensive care. A third officer sustained minor injuries.

In a later press conference, Vincent Fiasse, Charleroi prosecutor, described what had happened in what was one of several such operations targeting a criminal gang.

Fiasse said police identified themselves in the raid around 6am on the morning and first encountered a woman. The suspect then appeared from behind a door, pulled out a weapon and shot at the officers.

When the wounded policemen were retrieved, others moved in. They discovered the gunman, now also severely injured. He was arrested and rushed to the hospital, where he died of his wounds.

The shootings took place in what is regarded as a quiet neighbourhood. Residents have said the deceased suspect and his family had never exhibited any untoward behaviour and were known for their friendly demeanour.

The DSU has had members injured before but the March 18 loss of an officer is the first in recent memory.

Annelies Verlinden, interior minister and head of the Belgian police, called it “a black day for the police family and all security forces”.

“Our thoughts are with the victims’ families and colleagues. We will do everything we can to support them,” she said.

Justice Minister Paul Van Tigchelt added: “I heard the same news about this nightmare this morning. On behalf of our Government, I express my utmost respect for the police.”

Opposition party N-VA called for a meeting of the House Committee on Home Affairs as soon as possible to discuss the incident.

The right-wing Vlaams Belang party pointed the finger at policymakers, saying: “Something is going seriously wrong,” adding: “Everything radiating authority has a target on its back.”

Politicians of all stripes offered their condolences along with all police units.

Federal Judicial Police Commissioner-General Eric Snoeck said: “This morning, as all days, dozens of colleagues, dozens of federal agents, got up early, said goodbye to their families to do their duty.

“With the will, as always, to do their job correctly, also in the service of the people. One of us will not return home, another is fighting against death, yet another is [suffering from] his injuries.”

Snoeck commended the professionalism exhibited by his force but lamented that “even with such dedication, it was insufficient to prevent an incident of this magnitude, unprecedented in recent police history”.

He appealed for compassion and support for the victims and asked the press to act with due respect to the victims and their families.

An investigation into murder and attempted murder of the officers has been opened by the authorities.