Salah Abdeslam, Suspect in Paris Attacks, Is Captured in Brussels

BRUSSELS — A four-month search for a man believed to be the sole surviving participant in the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris came to an end on Friday when the police shot and captured the suspect, Salah Abdeslam, in a raid in Brussels, the authorities said.

The arrest brought to a close what had been a frustrating hunt for Mr. Abdeslam, 26, a Belgian-born French citizen of Moroccan ancestry who is believed to have driven the car that carried a team of terrorists to the French national soccer stadium outside Paris on Nov. 13. Mr. Abdeslam’s brother Ibrahim blew himself up as a member of a separate team of attackers.

“This evening is a huge success in the battle against terrorism,” Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said in a news conference with President François Hollande of France, saying the arrest was the product of a joint operation.

Salah Abdeslam is suspected of having dumped his suicide vest in a trash can after the attacks and then fleeing. In the hours after the attacks in Paris, and before his identity was widely known, Mr. Abdeslam was overlooked by the French authorities as he returned to Belgium by car.

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The streets in Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek, where the raid took place, were packed with journalists and angry onlookers, who have protested what they consider unfair and heavy-handed interrogations by the police since the November attacks. The area was home to a number of the Paris attackers.

Police cordoned off the area after the capture of Mr. Abdeslam, who was reported by Belgian news organizations to have burst out of a house and run down the street with a handgun before he was shot in the leg. Two other men were arrested with him.

Michel Eylenbosch, the chairman of the Molenbeek City Council, where Mr. Abdeslam apparently retreated after the Paris attacks, expressed relief at his arrest and said that there was “now the possibility to have big steps in this case.”

The raid leading to the capture of Mr. Abdeslam came shortly after Belgian authorities said they had found his fingerprints in an apartment raided on Tuesday in another Brussels neighborhood, Forest.


Salah Abdeslam.CreditBelgian Federal Police, via Associated Press

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

Eric Van der Sijpt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor in Brussels, said it was possible Mr. Abdeslam had spent “days, weeks or months,” in the apartment.

Of the 10 men believed to have participated directly in the Paris attacks, which were orchestrated by the Islamic State and killed 130 people, Mr. Abdeslam was the only one who was at large. The rest died in the attacks or soon afterward.

Mr. Abdeslam’s capture could give the authorities an opportunity to interrogate him about how the attacks they were planned and the procedures used by the Islamic State to plot and carry out attacks in Europe.


Hollande Confirms Belgium Raid

President François Hollande of France confirmed an operation in Belgium, which led to the capture of Salah Abdeslam, a participant in the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on Publish DateMarch 18, 2016. Photo by Stephane De Sakutin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. summit meeting, each said on Twitter that President Obama had called them to congratulate them on the arrest.

Over the past four months, the French and Belgian police have raided dozens of buildings, scooped up troves of documents and questioned scores of suspects as part of their investigation.

The raid on Tuesday that yielded his fingerprints was not an attempt to capture Mr. Abdeslam. The authorities had targeted the home, on the Rue du Dries in the Forest section of Brussels, as part of an effort to collect additional intelligence.

The French and Belgian officers who conducted the raid on Tuesday were surprised to find the residence occupied. They immediately came under fire, and in the ensuing gunfight, Mr. Belkaid was killed. Four police officers were slightly wounded.


Belgian security forces work at the scene of an anti-terrorism operation on Friday in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels. CreditLaurent Dubrule/European Pressphoto Agency

It was the second time the authorities had found Mr. Abdeslam’s fingerprints in an apartment in Brussels; in December his fingerprints werefound in an apartment in the Schaerbeek section of Brussels, along with material that might have been used to make suicide belts.

The tantalizing, and frustrating, clues suggested that Mr. Abdeslam hid in the Belgian capital after the attacks, and might be there still, although some investigators had theorized that he escaped to Syria.

Belgian prosecutors said on Friday that the Algerian man killed in the raid, Mr. Belkaid, was “most probably” a man who helped the Paris attackers. Mr. Belkaid had been using fake Belgian identity papers in the name Samir Bouzid.

A man traveling under that name had been previously identified as one of two men in a car with Mr. Abdeslam in September as the three drove between Hungary and Austria. After the attacks, someone using the name Samir Bouzid wired 750 euros, about $845, to the cousin of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the on-the-ground organizer of the attacks. (Mr. Abaaoud and his cousin died in a police raid outside Paris on Nov. 18.)

The Expanding Web of Connections Among the Paris Attackers

Before the Paris attacks, Salah and Ibrahim Abdeslamlived in Molenbeek; Mr. Abdeslam was known to the authorities as a possible Islamic militant.

In 2010, Ibrahim Abdeslam served time in a Belgian prison with Mr. Abaaoud, who helped organize the attacks and who also lived in Molenbeek.

Salah Abdeslam had several brushes with the law, mainly for minor offenses. A week before the attacks, Belgian authorities shut down the nightclub Ibrahim Abdeslam operated because the two were suspected of selling drugs.

In September, Salah Abdeslam drove to Budapest, where he picked up two men who returned with him to Belgium with fake identity cards.

The morning after the attacks, Mr. Abdeslam was stopped on a highway in the French town of Cambrai, near the Belgian border, but he was waved through.

There has been almost weekly reports by various French and Belgium media outlets, none confirmed by government authorities, of Mr. Abdeslam’s whereabouts. Sightings had been reported in at least two places in Belgium as well as in Amsterdam.

In December it was revealed that Mr. Abdeslam may have evaded the Belgian police two days after the attacks because of an arcane law that prevented law enforcement officers from raiding a private home after 9 p.m.

Last month his fiancée was quoted in the Belgium media saying that he would be killed before he would allow himself to be captured.

[Source:- The New York Times]