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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Far-right ties in Belgian murders
A woman lays flowers at the scene where the Malian nanny and the two-year-old white girl were killed
The killings have shocked the nation
A Belgian teenager accused of killing two people in a race attack in Antwerp has far-right family links, police say.

Hans van Themsche shot a pregnant black nanny from Mali and a two-year-old white girl in her care, before himself being shot and injured by police.

Mr Van Themsche, 18, also shot and injured a woman of Turkish descent.

"He obviously was in search of people of foreign origin to shoot them down. That's what he declared himself," a public prosecution spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman, Dominique Reyniers, added that the suspect was questioned on Friday and was due to appear in court after his recovery in hospital.

We have to avoid our society being sucked into a spiral of violence
Belgian PM Guy Verhofstadt

Police say Mr Van Themsche's father helped found the now defunct anti-immigration party Vlaams Blok, and his aunt is an MP for its successor, Vlaams Belang.

The then Vlaams Blok scored 24% in regional elections in Flanders in June 2004. But it has been kept out of government by a coalition of all the other parties in the Flemish assembly.

The Belgian government has strongly condemned the shootings, describing them as an extreme form of racism.

Hundreds of people marched in Antwerp on Friday to condemn the attacks.

Calls for calm

The shooting spree began on Thursday, after Mr Van Themsche bought a hunting rifle in a shop in Antwerp.

He walked to the city centre and shot the woman of Turkish descent in the chest, as she sat reading a book on a bench.

The woman was badly injured but survived the attack.

The teenager than shot two more people - the pregnant woman from Mali and the white toddler in her care - killing them both.

Police later intercepted Mr Van Themsche, and shot and wounded him in the stomach after he refused to put down his gun.

Mr Van Themsche - an agricultural college student - was reportedly asked to leave boarding school just days earlier for smoking. He also reportedly left a farewell letter.

Following the shootings, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt called for calm.

"We have to avoid our society being sucked into a spiral of violence," he said. "The police and the judicial system will do all that is needed for justice to be done."

The killings follow an attack last Saturday in the city of Bruges, in which a black Frenchman was left in a coma after being beaten up by a group of skinheads.

Blow to Belgium's far right
09 Nov 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Belgium
26 Mar 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Belgium
09 May 06 |  Country profiles


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