Police shootout in Antwerp with far-right group leaves one dead

A house search in the Antwerp district of Merksem on Wednesday morning resulted in one death, VRT NWS reports and the Antwerp public prosecutor's office confirms. According to RTBF, the search was part of an investigation into illegal arms trafficking in a milieu possibly linked to far-right extremism. The federal public prosecutor's office confirms this information but is giving little further comment on the investigation for now.

According to RTBF, the police operation targeted a small group with suspected links to violent far-right extremism. Investigators searched the address looking for weapons, notably homemade weapons. In addition to suspected arms trafficking, the suspects are also believed to have attempted to commit a terrorist attack, RTBF reports.

"Within the context of a case of the federal public prosecutor's office about preparations for a terrorist attack and violations of weapons legislation, about ten house searches were carried out this morning in the Antwerp region," says federal public prosecutor's office spokesman Eric Van Duyse. "The case is probably situated in the far-right milieu and is being handled by an investigating judge in Antwerp."

Searches took place in the Belgian municipalities of Merksem, Zandvliet, Antwerp, Deurne, Berchem, Kasterlee and Ghent. A large number of weapons were seized and will be further examined and inventoried in the coming days. Some of the weapons present were legally registered, the federal public prosecutor stated.

"During one of these interventions, a gunfight took place between the police and one of the people present in a building," the prosecutor's spokesman added. "This person died. As a result, a second file was opened by the Antwerp public prosecutor's office this morning regarding the shooting incident." 

A report published in 2021 warned that right-wing extremism is growing at an alarming rate in Belgium. While Jihadism is still the leading threat, an annual report by the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAD) showed that the threat from far-right extremists had witnessed a "steep rise."




A police officer at the scene in Merksem where a house search n Wednesday morning resulted in a shootout leaving one dead © BELGA PHOTO JONAS ROOSENS

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