BRUSSELS – An Algerian man who attacked two Belgian policewomen with a machete over the weekend was known to authorities for petty crimes but had not been linked to any terror offenses, Belgium's top migration official said Monday.
Migration State Secretary Theo Francken said the man, identified by Belgian media as Khaled Babouri, "was not known for terrorist reasons."
Francken told Belgian Radio 1 that Babouri was "was caught in possession of hashish and other drugs and got a ticket because he switched his bus card with his brother."
The 33-year-old Algerian, who wounded the two officers at Charleroi city police station on Saturday before being shot dead, had been living illegally in Belgium. He had been twice ordered to leave the country but failed to do so.
Francken said Belgium has struggled to conclude a return agreement with Algeria so that such people can be sent home, even though it does have one with Morocco.
"It makes little sense to catch someone if the country refuses time and time again to take them back," Francken said.
Saturday's attack has increased pressure on the Belgian police, who have been on high alert since the attacks in Paris last November guarding infrastructure and soft targets like concerts and sports events. The military also remains deployed.
Belgian police unions believe security at stations should be stepped up. The SLFP public service union said "it is clearly a disappointment for police" to have the national security alert at a higher threat level for the public than for the authorities meant to protect them.