WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT: The attacker, who had been released from prison one day ago, stole an officer's gun during a routine check and then used the weapon to kill the victim
A "radicalised" gunman who killed two female police officers and a passer-by during a suspected terror attack in Belgium shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he carried out the massacre.
The knife-wielding attacker stole an officer's firearm during a routine check and then used the weapon against police before he took a woman hostage at a school in Liege.
The 30-year-old Belgian man was shot dead by anti-terrorist officers, bringing an end to the rampage.
Chilling images posted online show the gunman, named as Benjamin Hermans, wielding two handguns after killing his victims.
He launched the attack just one day after he was released from prison so he could visit family and friends, with local reports claiming he was "radicalised" behind bars.
The gunman carries two handguns after killing his victims
Belgian authorities said the incident is being treated as terrorism.
Witnesses said the attacker was armed with two guns and shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he carried out the attack, VTM reported.
Two other police officers were seriously wounded during the incident.
The drama unfolded outside the Augustins cafe in Liege city centre at about 10.30am on Tuesday.
Two police officers lay dead after being shot outside a cafe
The attacker, pictured on the floor, was shot dead by anti-terror cops
The attacker was armed with a knife when he disarmed an officer during a routine documents check and opened fire, killing the pair and a woman in a car.
He ran into the Athenee de Waha high school, where he took a female cleaner hostage.
He came out and shot at police - wounding two officers in the legs - and was then gunned down by an elite anti-terror squad.
The hostage was released without harm.
Police officers crouch behind a car during the hunt for the gunman
One witness told of the chilling moment he came face-to-face with the shooter after hearing "popping" noises in the street.
The witness told Sudpresse: "I saw a man dressed in black with a backpack and two pistols in his hands. He quietly pulled a woman out of a car.
"Then the shooter walked towards the witness, but he turned and shot again.
"I saw a person fall to the ground. I do not know if she did that to take shelter or because she was [shot]. I have never seen anything like it. It was madness."
Police told local media that all students were safe after the school was evacuated and they were taken to the Botanical Garden nearby.
As the chaos unfolded witnesses posted harrowing video online showing terrified people running for cover on Liege's central boulevard d'Avroy.
A heavy burst of gunshots and sirens are heard.
A graphic video of the scene outside the cafe shows two bloodied police officers as they lay motionless on the floor in a zebra crossing.
Officers take cover during the initial response to the shooting
A local source said: "Two officers were hit and then the man went on the run.
"He was seen running into the Waha secondary school, where he is said to have taken a female cleaner hostage."
The source added: "The gunman was then neutralised. He was heard shouting 'Alluhu Akbar' – Arabic for 'God is the greatest'."
Catherine Collignon, a spokesman for Liege prosecutors, confirmed four people, including the assailant, were dead, and two other police officers were seriously wounded.
The gunman took a woman hostage at the Athenee de Waha high school
She said terrorism was currently considered the principal motivation for the attack by those leading the judicial enquiry.
The gunman, from Marche-en-Famenne in south-eastern Belgium, was released from prison on Monday and was known for drug trafficking and theft, but not for terrorism, local media reported.
HLN reported that he was on prison leave and he had been "radicalised" while serving time.
In the aftermath, Belgium's royal family said in a statement: "Our thoughts are with the victims of this horrible act."
King Philippe was expected to visit the scene along with Prime Minister Charles Michel, who offered condolences to the victims and their families.
Belgium's national threat level remained at level two out of four - indicating an average risk of a terror attack - after Tuesday's deadly shooting.
It has been the target of multiple terror attacks in recent years, leading to a massive increase in security across the country.
The country has been on high alert since a Brussels-based ISIS cell was involved in the 2015 attacks on that killed 130 people, and the 2016 attacks on Brussels in which 32 died.
Forensics experts gather during the investigation in central Liege
Liege, an industrial city close to the German border in a French-speaking region, was the scene of a shooting in 2011, when a gunman killed four people and wounded more than 100 others before turning the gun on himself.
On its travel advice website, the UK's Foreign Office warns holidaymakers that terrorists are "very likely" to carry out attacks in Belgium.
The website states: "Attacks could happen anywhere, including on public transport and transport hubs and in other places visited by foreigners."
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