Paris attacks: Suspect Salah Abdeslam arrested in Brussels

Policemen stand guard in Molenbeek district in Brussels. Picture: AFP/Getty
Policemen stand guard in Molenbeek district in Brussels. Picture: AFP/Getty
Share this article
7
Have your say

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been wounded and captured in a huge anti-terror operation in Brussels after four months on the run.

French police officials and the Belgian migration minister Theo Francken confirmed his arrest following police activity yesterday.

Mr Francken tweeted: “We’ve got him”. Abdeslam was shot in the leg and a second man was also injured during the operation, according to Belgian media.

A third man was also thought to be holed up in a building in the Molenbeek district, where some of the Paris attackers, including suspected ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, were from.

Belgium’s prime minister Charles Michel left the EU-Turkey migrant crisis summit amid reports of the raid.

TV footage showed armed officers descending on the area and gunshots and explosions were reported.

Fire engines and ambulances were seen driving into the gated complex, which remained under armed police guard last night.

Local media said police, who were joined at the scene by the army, appeared to use grenades while ­eyewitness reports suggested white smoke could be seen coming from a property.

At least ten gunshots were reportedly heard.

A spokesman for the Belgium federal prosecutor’s office said four people have been detained along with Paris attacks fugitive Abdeslam, including three members of a family that sheltered him.

A spokesman said Abdeslam and another suspect had minor injuries in the raid that led to their capture. He did not say how the three members of the family accused of sheltering Abdeslam knew him.

Abdeslam was unarmed but still did not immediately surrender or obey orders, Belgian federal magistrate Eric Van der Sypt said. He was then shot in the leg.

The news came after the Belgian authorities said a man shot dead on Tuesday was probably an accomplice of Abdeslam.

Fingerprints found at the address where Algerian national Mohamed Belkaid was killed suggested Abdeslam had been there too.

Two men escaped from the apartment during the gunfight with police and one of them is now thought to have been Abdeslam, 26, who fled from Paris after the terror attacks in November which killed 130 people.

Most of the Paris attackers died that night, including Abdeslam’s brother Brahim, who blew himself up.

Brussels-born Abdeslam, a childhood friend of Abaaoud, is believed to have driven a group of gunmen who took part.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

In addition to Abdeslam, the whereabouts of two Paris attack suspects remains unknown, including fellow Molenbeek resident Mohamed Abrini and a man known under the alias of Soufiane Kayal.

In the raid earlier in the week, a man believed to have been an accomplice of Abdeslam – Mohamed Belkaid – was shot dead, Belgian prosecutors say. But two men escaped from the apartment, one of whom appears to have been Abdeslam.

Mr Van der Sypt said it was possible Abdeslam had spent “days, weeks or months” in the apartment.

During the raids on Tuesday, a joint team of Belgian and French police searched a residence in the Forest area of Brussels in connection with the Paris investigation, and were fired upon by at least two people inside. Four officers were slightly wounded.

An occupant was shot dead by a police sniper as he prepared to open fire on police from a window. Police identified him as Belkaid, 35, an Algerian national living illegally in Belgium.

A Kalashnikov assault rifle was found by his body, as well as a book on Salafism, an ultraconservative strain of Islam. Elsewhere in the apartment, police found an IS banner as well as 11 Kalashnikov loaders and a large quantity of ammunition, prosecutors said. Belgian authorities initially said Belkaid had no known background in radical Islamic activities.

However yesterday, prosecutors issued a statement saying he was “most probably” an accomplice of Abdeslam who had been using a fake Belgian ID card in the name of Samir Bouzid.

A man using that ID card was one of the two men seen with Abdeslam in a rental car on the Hungarian-Austrian border in September.

Four days after the 13 November Paris attacks, the same false ID card was used to transfer money to Hasna Ait Boulahcen, Abaaoud’s niece.