Belgian prosecutors have named a 35-year-old Algerian as the man shot dead by police on Tuesday during a police raid on a Brussels apartment in the hunt for clues to bloody attacks in Paris last November.
Police found an Islamic State flag in the apartment used by Mohamed Belkaid and two others suspected of being with him after officers were met with a barrage of automatic weapons fire as they arrived to search the flat.
Belkaid, who was living in Belgium illegally and had a police record for theft but was not on security watchlists, was killed by a special forces sniper after a three-hour siege.
A manhunt for the two other suspects on the run continued yesterday.
The government held its alert status steady at Level Three, one step below the maximum.
The prosecutors said a radical Islamic text was found next to Belkaid’s body and a cache of ammunition was also discovered.
It was not clear if he had any links to the Paris suspects.
Two people detained overnight on suspicion of links to the shootout in the suburb of Forest were released without charge.
Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November 13 shooting and bombing rampage in Paris that killed 130 people was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought as militants in Syria.
Ten people are being held in Belgian custody on a variety of charges relating to the four-month investigation, though prime suspects, including Salah Abdeslam, a brother of one of the Paris suicide bombers, are suspected of having fled the country.
On Tuesday, six Belgian and French police officers arrived to search the flat and came under automatic fire through a door from at least two people barricaded inside.
Four officers, one of them a Frenchwoman, were wounded, none very seriously.
After hours of gun battles, a suspect was “neutralised by a sniper of the special forces when he tried to open fire from the window of the flat”, spokesman for the prosecutors Thierry Werts said.
“Next to his body was a Kalashnikov, a book on Salafism and an Islamic State flag,” Werts told a press conference.
Eleven magazines of ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles were also found.
Werts said that “two persons who were probably in the flat and whose identity is not known fled the scene and are being tracked down”.
A second Kalashnikov and black clothes were found abandoned at a house nearby but searches throughout the southern district of Brussels for the two men yielded “no results”, he said.
Two suspects arrested in connection with the case, including one found in hospital with a broken leg, were later released without charge, prosecutors added.
Ministers said the police visit to the apartment had not been expected to provide much new evidence and that the presence of French officers did not imply a major break in the case.
Prime Minister Charles Michel said he was holding the state of alert steady after a meeting of security and intelligence chiefs in Belgium’s national security council.
Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance Nato, was entirely locked down for days shortly after the Paris attacks because of fears of a major incident there.
The city has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular occurrence.
Belgium, with a Muslim population of about 5% among its 11mn people, has Europe’s highest rate of citizens joining Islamist militants in Syria.
People living in the quiet neighbourhood of Forest suffered hours of lockdown on Tuesday and voiced shock at the events.
Schoolboy Maxime, 11, was at home sick when he heard gunfire and helicopters and saw masked commandoes on a rooftop.
“They had a huge weapon,” he said, adding he was “very, very scared”.
Children were left trapped in nearby schools by the shootout, and Prime Minister Michel thanked residents for their “composure” as bursts of gunfire erupted in the streets and dozens of heavily-armed police with balaclavas and sub-machineguns patrolled.
By early yesterday calm had largely returned to the area and most locals had been allowed to return home.
Counsellors were sent to the reopened schools to help teachers, parents and the small children cope with the aftermath, RTBF radio reported.
Access to the scene of the shootout was also reopened with the windows in the building blown out and taped up with plastic.
The mayor of Forest, Marc-Jean Ghyssels, said that life was back to normal.