A lone gunman killed a magistrate and a clerk in a Brussels courthouse Thursday, then fled on foot, setting off a manhunt in the center of the Belgian capital.
Officials were unable to give any details about the gunman's identity or a possible motive for the slayings, which took place at 11:23 a.m. as the gunman attended a morning hearing.
"He was present at the outset of the hearing," said Jean-Marc Meilleur, the spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor's office. "Toward the end of the session, he pulled a gun. Shots were fired, after which the killer fled."
Meilleur told a news conference "the gunman did not speak" and that, after he rose, took careful aim at the judge and the clerk.
Six hours after the killings, the gunman remained at large.
The courtroom was almost empty at the time of the shooting. Apart from the gunman and the two victims, three lawyers and a spectator were in the room, said Meilleur.
Belgian media identified the dead magistrate as Isabelle Brandon and her clerk as Andre Bellemans, a justice of the peace, who hears minor civil cases often involving quarreling neighbors or rent and credit disputes under €1,860 ($2,280).
The slayings showed the need for much stricter security in Belgian courthouses, Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck said.
Security at justice of the peace hearings is minimal so to narrow the divide between the public and the judiciary.
Yves Oschinksky, head of the Brussels bar for French-speaking lawyers called the double killing "a serious blow. It's terrible that even the security of the justice of the peace courts can no longer be guaranteed."