Sweden players take overnight flight home, return to clubs after shooting in Belgium

AP , Tuesday 17 Oct 2023

Sweden players were returning to their clubs Tuesday after taking an overnight flight home from Brussels following the suspension of their European Championship qualifier against Belgium at halftime because a gunman killed two Swedish nationals before kickoff.

Sweden supporters after suspension of the game (AP)

The squad went directly to the airport and flew back to Sweden once they were allowed to leave King Baudouin Stadium, which was locked down for 2½ hours for security reasons before officials began an evacuation process around midnight local time.

It was around 4 a.m. local time when the last of the Swedish supporters — totaling about 650, according to the Swedish Football Association — left the stadium under police surveillance, along with some staff from the federation.

All hotels where Swedish supporters were staying were also guarded by police, the federation said.

The Swedish FA confirmed to The Associated Press that the national-team players were now making their way back to their clubs.

The suspect in the shooting was shot dead by police on Tuesday, Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said, and the weapon believed to have been used by the man has been recovered.

Authorities had been searching for a 45-year-old suspected Tunisian extremist who was known to police and was living in Belgium illegally.

Swedish FA officials said information about the shooting incident, which also led to another Swedish national getting seriously injured and taken to hospital, reached them just before the match began and that Belgian authorities and police considered the game should be played because the stadium was viewed as the safest place for the Swedish fans.

A decision was made to halt the match at halftime.

Martin Fredman, the federation’s head of security, said about 400 Swedish fans “received help during the evening and night.”

“The cooperation between supporters, federations and authorities has worked very well in an extremely stressful situation,” Fredman said.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

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