Gunmen Kill As Many as 10 In Supermarket Holdup
AALST, Belgium (AP) _ Gunmen shot and killed as many as 10 people and seriously wounded about a dozen others in a bloody rampage during a supermarket robbery Saturday, police and witnesses reported.
The robbery of the Delhaize supermarket in Aalst, 16 miles west of Brussels, occurred about 15 minutes before the store was to close at 8 p.m.
Witnesses said three men fired between 30 and 40 shots as they ran from the store, killing some people inside the building and others in the parking lot.
″They shot at anything that moved - it was a real massacre,″ said police spokesman Alfons van den Broeck.
On Sept. 27, gunmen killed eight people during robberies of two supermarkets in towns south of Brussels. Police linked those murders to the execution-style slayings of 12 people in robberies in 1982 and 1983 in the Brussels area.
It is believed those robberies and the one Saturday were the work of what local newspapers call the ″Nivelles Gang,″ named after the town south of Brussels where the killers first struck in 1982.
There were conflicting reports on the number of casualties in the latest attack.
Van den Broeck said, ″At least nine people died and two were critically wounded.″
Belgian television said 10 people died, six at the supermarket and four later in a hospital. It said the dead included a nine-year-old child.
A man identified only as a first aid official said on Belgian radio that ″at first sight, nine to 10 people are dead and 10 to 12 people are seriously injured. People were shot in cold blood from 30 centimeters (one foot) away.″ An unidentified shopper told Belgian radio he saw three men firing guns as they ran from the market.
One carried a bag apparently containing money, he said, adding: ″It was incredibly heavy because he almost could not run. He was running in the same direction as the first guy I saw. Afterwards a third man came out and he was firing at everything that moved.″
The shopper said police then reached the supermarket parking lot and gave chase, firing at the robbers’ car, but quickly lost them.
Police did not immediately identify the weapons used, but Belgian radio and television said the robbers fired shotguns on their way in and out of the store.
After the robbery, there were holes made by shotgun pellets or bullets inside the building and in parked cars.
Some witnesses said the three gunmen spent about four minutes inside the supermarket, then fled in a Volkswagen automobile. The market is about a mile from a six-lane highway leading from Brussels to the coast.
Last Monday, Premier Wilfried Martens met with several members of his Cabinet to discuss growing criticism of Belgium’s police forces. They reportedly discussed the creation of a special police unit to combat political terrorism and violent criminal actions, but announced no decision.
A terrorist group calling itself the Fighting Communist Cells has claimed responsibility for 18 bomb attacks in Belgium since Oct. 2, 1984. Another group, the Revolutionary Front for Proletarian Action, claimed responsibility for two bombings last April.
The targets of the bomb attacks have included European offices of U.S. Defense contractors, political party offices, NATO installations and banks.
The most recent bombings were last week.
On Monday, gunmen blew up an armored postal van in Verviers, killing two postmen inside and injuring the driver. They escaped with the equivalent of $132,000.
Two hours later, a bomb exploded at a branch of the Socxiete Generale de Bangue, Belgium’s largest bank, in Charleroi, 34 miles south of Brussels, causing heavy damage but no casualties.
Early Tuesday morning, a van packed with explosives and containers of natural gas blew up in front of the Brussels headquarters of the Bangue Bruxelles-Lambert, the country’s second largest bank. That blast also caused damage but no injuries. Both bank bombings were blamed on the Fighting Communist Cells.
Police have made no arrests in the robbery-killings or bombings.
Complaints about the efficiency of Belgium’s police reached a peak following the May 29 riot at Brussels’ Heysel soccer stadium in which 39 people were killed when British hooligans attacked Italian fans.
That was one factor in the resignation of Marten’s government two months before scheduled elections. His coalition won the election last month, however, and was reformed to govern another four years.