Brussels attack could have been worse: Belgian PM

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BRUSSELS A suitcase bomb packed with nails and gas bottles could have caused heavy casualties, Belgium's prime minister said yesterday, a day after a soldier shot dead a Moroccan national attempting an attack on Brussels' central station.

"We have avoided an attack that could have been a great deal worse," Prime Minister Charles Michel said after a national security council meeting following Tuesday evening's incident, in which no one else was hurt.

A counter-terrorism prosecutor named the dead man only by his initials, O.Z.

He was a 36-year-old Moroccan citizen who lived in the Brussels borough of Molenbeek and had not been suspected of militant links.

He set off his bomb on a crowded station concourse below ground at about 8.44pm (2.45am yesterday, Singapore time).

Walking up to a group of passengers, "he grabbed his suitcase, while shouting and causing a partial explosion. Fortunately, nobody was hurt," prosecutor Eric van der Sypt said.

The suitcase, later found to contain nails and gas bottles, caught fire and then exploded a second time more violently as the man ran downstairs to the platforms.

He then ran back up to the crowded concourse and rushed towards a soldier, shouting "Allahu Akbar" - God is great, in Arabic.

The soldier, part of a routine patrol, shot him several times. Bomb disposal experts later verified that the man was not carrying more explosives.

Mr Remy Bonnaffe, a 23-year-old lawyer who was waiting for a train home, photographed the flaming suitcase before the second blast, followed by gunfire, which prompted him to run.

"I think we had some luck tonight," he said. - REUTERS