Some 12,000 people in the centre of Waregem have to stay inside, as the municipality in West Flanders went into lockdown, as the police suspect that the man who was said to be armed on the campus of the Vives university college in Kortrijk earlier today changed locations.
It concerns the pupils and students of various primary and secondary schools, the staff of the OCMW and the library, but also of the art academy and the town hall in the centre of Waregem, north-east of Kortrijk.
"All Waregem school gates within the ring and the VTI are closed at this moment. We ask you NOT to come to the school," the city of Waregem tweeted. "Those who are already there can go to Waregem Expo. There are temporary shelters for parents. All students are well taken care of in the schools involved."
‼️ Alle Waregemse schoolpoorten binnen ring en het VTI zijn op dit moment gesloten. Wij vragen om NIET naar de school te komen. Wie toch al ter plaatse is, kan naar Waregem Expo gaan. Daar tijdelijke opvang voor ouders. Alle lln worden goed opvangen in betrokken scholen.
— Stad Waregem (@Stad_Waregem) October 7, 2021
The local police and specialised units of the federal police are still looking for the person who was said to be armed and walking around the grounds of the Vives university college in Kortrijk on Thursday morning.
The suspect is now believed to be walking around in Waregem, which is why all of the city's schools (four secondary schools and three primary schools) have locked their school gates.
The suspect reportedly lives in Waregem and someone is said to have recognised him in the street this afternoon, according to reports by VRT.
"We cannot leave anything to chance," mayor of Waregem, Kurt Vanryckeghem, told the outlet. "That is why we have locked down the schools. The police are standing by."
"Panic is absolutely unnecessary. This is a preventative measure," he added. "I hope we find the suspect quickly."
In the meantime, the public prosecutor's office confirmed that the Vlas police zone received a report from a witness on Thursday morning, who said they saw a person with an object, similar to a firearm, on the bus.
"This person reportedly showed the firearm, but did not threaten [anyone] with it," the public prosecutor's added. "The person is said to have got off the bus near the campus. The police therefore decided to set up a security perimeter."
On Thursday afternoon, the Vlas police zone announced that the entire Kortrijk campus was search, but the suspect was not found.
"There are now indications that the suspect is in the area of Waregem," they said, adding that this area is part of a different police zone, called MIRA.
?UPDATE verdachte toestand #Vives #Kortrijk: politie en parket laten weten dat de volledige campus werd doorzocht en er geen verdacht persoon werd aangetroffen. Er zijn nu aanwijzingen dat de verdachte zich in de regio van @Stad_Waregem en @politiezoneMIRA zou kunnen bevinden❗ pic.twitter.com/aOsmpEvoFp
— Politiezone VLAS ? (@pzvlas) October 7, 2021
Update: Around 6:00 PM, the police announced that the suspected armed man was arrested. More information can be found here.