Belgian police announced Tuesday that they are investigating photographs that appear to show people celebrating, drinking champagne and taking selfies during the autopsy of two terror suspects, according to the La Dernière Heure newspaper.
The two dead suspects had been killed during anti-terrorism raids in the town of Verviers in January, the paper reported. Those raids, which came swiftly after attacks by Islamist extremists in Paris, were said to have disrupted another plot for a terror attack.
Christian De Valkeneer, attorney general of Liege, organized a news conference Tuesday afternoon to call the behavior of those in the photos "unacceptable," although he also argued that media reports that alleged the photographs showed a "party" were inaccurate.
On Wednesday, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and police commissioner Catherine De Bolle stressed to reporters that no police officers appeared in the photographs. The identity of the men in the photograph is unknown and their faces were covered by surgical masks.
The photographs had circulated on the Intranet of the Radical Islam section of Brussel's anti-terrorism police for weeks, La Dernière Heure reported. Forensics staff, experts and police officials are authorized to attend autopsies in Belgium, and police will investigate whether any police officers were involved in the celebrations but not visible in the photographs.
Belgian authorities appear to be handling the case with sensitivity, fearful of a backlash in a small country with a significant Muslim population that has proved unusually fertile breeding ground for Islamist militants who travel to fight in the Middle East.
However, La Dernière Heure reports that the photograph has not broken any laws, and if those who took it are caught they will face internal discipline for failing to comply with ethical standards.