Shaken Swedes start heading home after two fans shot dead in Brussels
STOCKHOLM - Shocked Swedes are starting to make their way home from Brussels following the fatal shooting of two fans of the national soccer team by a suspected Islamist militant on Monday ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifying clash with Belgium.
The game was first suspended and then abandoned at halftime as the Sweden players felt that they could not continue, having been informed of the two deaths. It took until 0400 local time on Tuesday morning before the last Swedish fans were allowed to leave the ground.
"Most are going home during the day today. We have been instructed to stay in and not to go out, most are at their hotels until it's time to go home," Susanne Petersson, chairperson of supporters' group Camp Sweden told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
News of the deadly shootings, about five kilometres from the King Baudouin Stadium, reached the Swedish fans just as the game was about to get underway.
"We were uneasy and confused, it was difficult to understand what had happened, if it was aimed at Swedish people or if it was just Swedes that had ended up in something," Petersson said.
"We had contact with the police before we gathered (in Brussels), and we didn't feel particularly unsafe at that point, but then questions started to come on social media and we understood that something had happened."
The game got underway and the two sides were tied at 1-1 at halftime, but the teams did not reappear after the 15-minute break as meetings went on to decide whether or not the game would go ahead.
European governing body UEFA announced that the game had been suspended, and shortly afterwards said that the match had been abandoned.
"I was one of the last to leave as they had to organise it with police and buses so that it would be safe for us to leave," Petersson explained.
With the two dead supporters said to have been wearing national team shirts at the time they were shot, the Swedish fans were kept in the ground for their own safety, and they later had to give police the addresses of their hotels.
"They provided buses and had routes that delivered everyone to their respective hotels, and the police went in with them to each hotel," Petersson said.
Belgian authorities reported on Monday that the suspected gunman had been shot dead by police. - REUTERS