BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgium prosecutors opened a murder investigation after the body of a 9-year-old Palestinian boy was found Wednesday at an asylum seekers’ center near Antwerp.
According to initial findings provided by the prosecutor’s office on Thursday, the death resulted from violence and was considered suspicious.
“An investigation will be conducted in a transparent and independent manner. The culprits must be punished,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel wrote in a tweet, offering his condolences after this “tragic death.”
Five people arrested on Wednesday were still in police custody on Thursday morning, Kristof Aerts, spokesman for the Antwerp prosecutor’s office, told AFP.
The boy, born in Lebanon and of Palestinian nationality, was staying with his 26-year-old mother in the Broechem asylum center when he disappeared on Monday evening, Aerts said.
A search operation found the boy’s lifeless body in a ditch on the grounds of the reception center on Wednesday afternoon.
Belgium, a country of about 11 million inhabitants, receives about 20,000 asylum seekers annually, many of whom come from conflict areas in the Middle East, according to the Fedasil agency website.