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Authorities Say Islamic State Flag Found Near Algerian Gunman Who Died In Brussels Raid

Two people are currently being detained over their possible link to the raid, and two further suspects are believed to be still at large.
Security forces taking position during the March 15 police operation in Brussels. Photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA

The man killed Tuesday during an anti-terror raid south of Brussels has been identified as Mohammed Belkaid, a 36-year-old Algerian national who was in Belgium illegally.

Four police officers, including one French policewoman, were wounded during the raid, which was carried out jointly by Belgian and French authorities.

Addressing the media at a press conference Wednesday, Belgian Federal Prosecutor Frédéric van Leeuw said that two suspects were still at large and that two people had been taken into police custody. In a statement released later on Wednesday, the prosecutor's office said that the two people in custody had been released.

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The prosecutor told journalists that he would only be reading a statement and would not answer any questions, as the investigation and police operations were still underway.

He confirmed that police officers searched an apartment on Dries Street, in the Brussels suburb of Forest, as part of an investigation into the November 13 attacks in Paris.

Police in Belgium have carried out more than 100 searches since the attacks, leading to 81 arrests, 23 of which are linked to the events in Paris.

According to the prosecutor, a "joint investigation team" made up of four Belgian and two French nationals showed up at the apartment at 2:15pm. Two people opened fire on the police using a "riot gun" and an automatic weapon.

Three officers were injured as they came under fire, including the officer who was holding the battering ram used to break into the apartment. A fourth officer was injured in a later shootout. "The worst was avoided," the prosecutor said.

A sniper killed Belkaid as he was about to take a shot at officers from a window. His body was later found inside the apartment next to a Kalashnikov, ammunition, an Islamic State flag, and a book about Salafism, a particularly fundamentalist strain of Sunni Islam.

Two others who had been in the apartment were able to flee the scene. They have not yet been identified, the prosecutor said, adding that searches of nearby apartments and garages had turned up black clothing, magazines, and a Kalashnikov.

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Police initially detained a person who was admitted to hospital around 8pm Tuesday with a broken leg. The person accompanying him fled the hospital when the police arrived. The prosecutor also announced that one other person had been taken into custody. Both people have since been released.

Meanwhile, details have also emerged in the Belgian press about yesterday's raid. A police dog fitted with a camera was allegedly introduced into the apartment, but was forced to beat a hasty retreat when it came under fire.

The operation lasted until late in the night, and continued Wednesday morning, with a helicopter and several police teams, who searched other buildings in the area and combed through the neighborhood looking for clues.

Dozens of people stuck in schools and stores were allowed to leave the area, which was declared "completely secure" by Forest Mayor Marc-Jean Ghyssels on Wednesday morning.

Following the attacks in Paris and Saint-Denis lastr November, the Belgian police have multiplied searches in Brussels, particularly in the Molenbeek district. In the wake of the Paris attacks, two of alleged ringleader Salah Abdeslam's friends told investigators they had dropped him off in the Belgian capital. Police said Tuesday that Abdeslam was not the target of Tuesday's raid.

Investigators are also on the hunt for suspect Mohammed Abrini who, together with Abdeslam, has been described as "dangerous and probably armed" by European police agency Europol.

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