A Brussels apartment was probably used to make bombs for the Paris attacks, and one of the plotters also hid out there after escaping a police dragnet, Belgian prosecutors said yesterday.
The prosecutors said they found Salah Abdeslam’s fingerprint in a search of the apartment on 10 December, but do not know when he was last there. An international manhunt is ongoing for the 26-year-old, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
The search of the apartment also turned up three suspected suicide belts, traces of the same explosive used in the 13 November Paris attacks that killed 130 people and other material that could be used to manufacture bombs, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office.
Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said authorities decided to release the information after more than a month to dispel inaccuracies published by some Belgian media. Refusing to disclose details, he said the evidence acquired in the apartment “has helped us get further in the investigation”.
Mr Van der Sypt said the third-floor apartment was probably used as a hideout after Abdeslam fled the attacks. Abdeslam, whose older brother Braham was one of the Paris suicide bombers, called for two friends to pick him up in Paris amid the bloodshed and chaos that night that also left hundreds of people injured.
“We found material to make explosives, we found traces of explosives and we found three belts. So you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to make the right deduction,” Mr Van der Sypt said.
Abdeslam is believed to have played a key logistical role in the Paris carnage. A French gendarme stopped him and his two friends in their car near the border after the Paris attacks but released them. The friends are among ten people arrested in Belgium in connection with the November slaughter.
Authorities now believe Abdeslam returned to the apartment, was eventually picked up by someone else “and we lost trace,” Mr Van der Sypt said.