Sunday, January 25, 2009

Three Dead in Belgium Day Care Stabbings


DENDERMONDE, Belgium (Jan. 23) - A man went on a rampage at a Belgian day care center Friday, stabbing two young children and a female worker to death and slashing 12 others all over their bodies, officials said.

Sobbing parents rushed to the scene and to the hospital. Medical workers sprung into action, performing emergency operations to save the 10 children and two adults who were badly wounded.

Parents react as they leave a building where families received assistance near the scene of a knife attack at a creche in Dendermonde January 23, 2009. An assailant killed two children and an adult in the knife attack in western Belgium on Friday, authorities said. Ambulance services said at least 10 others had been injured.

The attack caused panic and outrage in the town 20 miles northwest of Brussels, where the day care center sits on a residential street.

"An act of great brutality has happened here against our weakest citizens," said mayor Buyse Piet. "The whole city is united in support for the parents who are in deep grief."

Prosecutor Christian Du Four said the attacker rode his bike up to the Fabeltjesland day care center about 10 a.m., entered and immediately began slashing a knife around. The dead included two children — ranging in age up to 3 — and a woman working in the center.

In the mayhem that ensued, the attacker simply walked out and got back on his bicycle before being arrested in a nearby supermarket shortly afterward, he said.

Dr. Ignace Demeyer, director of emergency services at the Our Lady Hospital in Aalst, 6 miles away, said 10 children arrived with very serious stab wounds, all required surgery, and all were now in stable condition.

"This was a particularly violent attack. All the kids had multiple stab wounds on their legs, arms and all over their bodies," he said.

He said two adults also required surgery and also were in stable condition at the hospital.

Demeyer said, in all, 21 children were at the center at the time of the attack, and nine were unharmed.

Du Four did not immediately identify the suspect, who was injured as police detained him and taken to a nearby hospital. Local residents told The Associated Press the suspect had a history of mental illness.

The city opened up a nearby community center to provide psychological counseling to family members and witnesses of the stabbings, and police cordoned off the area. Police showed distraught parents digital photographs of those taken to the hospital, asking them to identify their children.

"People are totally in shock," said Leene Du Bois, a spokeswoman for the regional government of Flanders. "Nobody would have imagined anyone could do so much harm. There is much grief."

She said the perpetrator had no connection to the day care center.
Veerle Heeren, the social welfare minister for the regional Flemish government, said she would be investigating security measures at the center.

Crown Prince Philipe and his wife, Princess Mathilde, are to meet with the parents of the children.

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