Page last updated at 21:34 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Vigil for Belgium creche victims

A child in Dendemonde, 25 January 2009
Children were at the forefront of the sombre day in Dendermonde

Thousands of people have marched in silence through the Belgian town of Dendermonde, where two babies and a nurse died in a vicious knife attack.

As many as 6,000 people massed in the centre of the small town in the north-west of the country, reports said.

Mourners laid wreaths at the site of the attack - a nursery which the local mayor says will never re-open.

Magistrates have charged a 20-year-old man with murdering the two babies - six and nine months old - and the nurse.

Children joined adults on the march through Dendermonde, led by a girl wearing a garland of white flowers and dead branches.

About 150 scouts walked behind her, followed by thousands of others who paced the route in grim quiet, AFP news agency reported.

They stopped at the day care centre where babies Korneel and Leon were killed along with 54-year-old nursery worker Marita Blindeman, who died trying to protect them.

The families of the victims were too grief-stricken to take part.

Along the route, people spoke of their shock, outrage and sadness at the murders.

"We are broken," one man, Louis, told AFP.

Piet Buyse, mayor of Dendemonde, a town of 40,000 some 30km (20 miles) north-west of Brussels, said no-one could understand why the attacker would choose babies as a target.

"We are here because we don't understand what happened in our town, because we are sad and especially because there are people around us who have a lot more pain," he said.

'Multiple stab wounds'

The man charged with the stabbings and murders, named by Belgian media as Kim de Gelder, is to appear in court on Tuesday.

Belgium map

He was arrested hours after Friday's attack at the Fabeltjesland nursery.

The attack reportedly began after a man rang the doorbell at the nursery and told staff he needed some information.

When they opened the door, he ran in and "quickly pulled out a knife and started using it on the children", prosecutor Christian Du Four has said.

"He then went up to another floor and started doing the same thing again."

The 10 injured children all had "multiple stab wounds on their legs, arms and all over their bodies", doctors said.

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