Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Five accused of murdering Palestinian boy in Belgian asylum centre

The boy, 9, was staying with his mother but went missing on Monday

Charles Michel, Belgium's prime minister, commented on the murder on Twitter. Bloomberg
Charles Michel, Belgium's prime minister, commented on the murder on Twitter. Bloomberg

Belgian authorities on Thursday charged five Palestinian men with the murder of a Palestinian boy, 9, at an asylum centre near Belgium's northern port city of Antwerp.

Officials said the boy, who had been staying with his mother in the Broechem centre, went missing late on Monday before a search turned up his body in a ditch on Wednesday.

The Antwerp prosecutor's office said five had been charged with the boy's murder.

"The facts are qualified as hostage-taking and murder," it said, without confirming a news report that the boy might have been kidnapped for ransom.

The accused are aged between 19 and 34, said the prosecutor's office spokesman, Kristof Aerts.

The boy's uncle, Bassem Chihadeh, told Flemish TV channel VTM his nephew was found dead with his hands and feet tied.

Mr Chihadeh said that after the boy disappeared the family received a WhatsApp message demanding €100,000 (Dh409,090).

The shocking case has drawn the attention of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

"An investigation will be conducted in a transparent and independent manner," Mr Michel tweeted.

"The culprits must be punished."

He also offered his condolences after this "tragic death".

The boy, born in Lebanon but of Palestinian descent, disappeared on Monday evening, Mr Aerts said. He was last seen riding his bike.

Statements given by the accused to investigators "are not clear" and none of them has confessed, a source said.

Belgium, a country of about 11 million people, receives about 20,000 asylum seekers a year, many of whom come from conflict areas in the Middle East, said the Fedasil refugee reception agency.

Updated: April 26, 2019 02:37 AM