Paris attacks kingpin captured

Salah Abdeslam

Salah Abdeslam

Brussels. — Top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted man, was wounded and captured in a raid by armed police in Brussels on Friday after four months on the run.

Abdeslam (26), who is believed to have played a key logistical role in the November 13 attacks claimed by the Islamic State group that left 130 people dead, sustained a leg injury in the raid, French police said.

“We got him,” said Belgium’s Immigration Minister Theo Francken.

The Franco-Moroccan is believed to be the last surviving member of the 10-strong commando team that carried out the worst ever terror attack on French soil.

He is thought to have fled to Brussels the day after the gun and bombing rampage on Paris nightspots after refusing to blow himself up.

His capture came just a day after his brother Brahim, who blew himself up in the massacre, was buried in a discreet ceremony on Thursday in Brussels.

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam had been on the run since the November 13 attacks.

A witness told AFP the operation began at around 1530 GMT when dozens of police cars swooped into the gritty Molenbeek neighbourhood of the Belgian capital.

“I heard about three or four shots fired, but they were muffled as if taking place indoors,” said Karim, an Oxfam charity employee who lives in the largely Molenbeek.

The arrest came hours after prosecutors revealed that Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in an apartment in another part of Brussels following a raid earlier this week in which a suspected IS militant was killed.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel held a crisis meeting after the arrest with French President Francois Hollande, who was in Brussels for a European Union summit.

Belgium has been at the centre of the investigation into the Paris attacks almost from day one, and has come under fire for alleged blunders that let the perpetrators slip under the radar.

Abdeslam fled to Brussels after the attacks and is believed to have holed up in a flat for at least three weeks evading detection by the Belgian police.

He slipped past three police checks in France as he fled to Belgium just hours after the terror assaults, a source close to the probe said in December.

Investigators believe Abdeslam hired one of he cars used in the attacks and then used it to drive suicide bombers to the Stade de France with the task to then blow himself up.

But he apparently backed out, and an explosives-filled suicide vest was later found in Paris in a region that mobile phone signals indicated he had been in. Police believe he fled across the border the next morning. Several people have been arrested on suspicion of helping him.

Another of the Paris attackers, Bilal Hadfi, was last week buried quietly in the same cemetery as Abdeslam’s brother.

Both had links to Molenbeek, a largely immigrant district which has been a hotbed of Islamist violence for decades. — AFP.

 

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