Shootings leave two dead in Brussels as it battles drug violence

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Two people were killed in separate shootings in Brussels overnight, police said on Sunday, as officials grapple with a surge in drug-related crimes in the city.

Gunfire was heard in the Laeken district in the north of the Belgian capital, where one person was found dead, a police spokesman said.

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A few hours later, another person died in hospital after being wounded in a shooting near the city center, another spokesman said.

Around half a dozen shootings thought to be linked to drug trafficking, one of them fatal, have taken place since February in Brussels, where the use of crack cocaine on the streets has become increasingly prevalent.

Belgium’s Antwerp port -- the main gateway for cocaine into Europe -- is regularly plagued by gang violence linked to the illicit trade, but until recently the capital had largely been spared.

Under pressure to act, Brussels authorities on February 27 unveiled a strategy for tackling what senior security official Sophie Lavaux called the “unacceptable violence” encroaching on the city.

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