3 dead in day care stabbings

January 23, 2009 8:23:15 AM PST
A man went on a rampage at a Belgium day care center Friday, stabbing two young children and a female worker to death and slashing 10 other children all over their bodies, officials said. Sobbing parents rushed to the scene and to hospitals, and medical workers in the town sprung into action, performing 10 operations to save the badly wounded children.

The attack caused widespread panic in the day care center, which serves up to 30 children on a residential street in this town 20 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Brussels.

"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."

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

Du Four said in the mayhem that ensued the attacker simply walked out and got back on his bicycle before being arrested in a nearby supermarket shortly after the attack.

Dr. Ignace Demeyer, director of the local hospital, said 10 children arrived at his hospital with very serious stab wounds, all required surgery, and all were now in stable condition.

He said the attack was very violent and the children had multiple stab wounds all over their bodies.

Demeyer also said 21 children were at the daycare 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.

Du Four said police showed shaken parents digital photographs of the youngsters who had been 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.

The city opened up a nearby community center to provide psychological counseling to victims and witnesses of the stabbings.

Veerle Heeren, the social welfare minister for the regional Flemish government, said she would be investigating security measures at the center.

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