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Body Found at Home of Attacker Who Threw Explosives in Belgian Town

 

The body of a woman has been found in the garage of a grenade-lobbing gunman who killed three people and injured 123 others in an attack in the city of Liege, officials said Wednesday.

Liege Prosecutor Daniele Reynders said the body of a woman in her forties was discovered during a search of Nordine Amrani's property, and that she was killed before the murderous spree at Liege's main square.

"It was a cleaning lady. This is how she met him yesterday morning," Reynders said. "She died, shot with a bullet in the head."

Reynders said Amrani, 33, died in Tuesday's attack in an apparent suicide, and he was found with a number of grenades still on him.

"What killed him was a shot in the middle of his forehead," she said.

News reports said the attack began at about 12:30 p.m. when Amrani lobbed several grenades at the bus shelter in Place Saint-Lambert, a busy downtown square. The reports said witnesses reported four explosions and gun fire.

Amrani, 33, was a Liege resident who police say had done jail time for offenses involving guns, drugs and sexual abuse. He was among the dead, but Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders told reporters it was unclear if he committed suicide or died by accident. He did not die at the hands of police, she said.

The attack left blood splattered across the cobblestones of the central area of Liege city, which was crowded with people doing Christmas shopping in nearby markets.

Footage from the scene showed people, including a large group of children, fleeing down the streets of the city center -- some still carrying shopping bags. Ambulances and police vehicles descended on the area.

Two male teenage students, 15 and 17 years old, also died in the attack, while an 18-month-old toddler died Tuesday evening in hospital, Liege police said. Several people remain in intensive care.

A 75-year-old woman who had initially been counted among the dead was taken off the list, even though she stands virtually no chance of recovering from her injuries, said Catherine Delcourt, a spokeswoman for the Liege governor.

Beyond the dead and injured, Reynders said some 40 people had to be treated for psychological trauma.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the attack, but Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said it did not involve terrorism.

Reynders said Amrani had been summoned for police questioning on Tuesday but the reason for the questioning was not clear.

Officials said Amrani left his home in Liege with a backpack, armed with hand grenades, a revolver and an FAL assault rifle

News reports said police helicopters were flying over the city and a medical post has been set up in the courtyard of the palace of the Prince Bishops court house located on the site.

VRT Radio spoke with Herve Taveirne from the courthouse into which he had fled to escape the gunfire.

"We were in the courthouse building and were just leaving when we saw someone toss a grenade," Taveirne said. "I grabbed a little boy ... and took him back into the courthouse.

Outside the building I heard shooting ... Our lives were in danger. This man was shooting in any direction. We ran for our lives at that point."

Place Saint-Lambert is a busy crossroads. Every day 1,800 buses serve the square, which leads to downtown shopping streets. The Place Saint-Lambert and the nearby Place du Marche host the Liege's annual Christmas market which consists of 200 retail cabins and attracts some 1.5 million visitors a year.

The Associated Press and Newscore contributed to this report.