Police raid underway in Brussels connected to Paris attacks - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Police raid underway in Brussels connected to Paris attacks

Two French police officials have told The Associated Press that Salah Abdeslam, the main fugitive from Islamic extremist attacks in Paris in November, has been arrested in Belgium's capital after four months at large.

They said he was arrested Friday in a major police operation in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. Both officials are in contact with people involved in the operation and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing operation.


Abdeslam was among several attackers who targeted cafes, a rock concert and a stadium in Paris' deadliest attacks in decades, which killed 130 people.


 

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

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

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, in which Belgian nationals played key roles.

On Tuesday, a joint team of Belgian and French police showed up to search a residence in the Forest area in connection with the Paris investigation, and were unexpectedly fired upon by at least two people inside. Four officers were slightly wounded.

An occupant of the residence was shot dead by a police sniper as he prepared to open fire on police from a window. Police identified him as Mohamed 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 Islamic State banner as well as 11 Kalashnikov loaders and a large quantity of ammunition, the prosecutor said.

Belgian authorities initially said Belkaid had no known background in radical Islamic activities. But Friday afternoon, 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 Nov. 13 Paris attacks, the same false ID card was used to transfer 750 euros ($847) to Hasna Ait Boulahcen, Abaaoud's niece. Both Ait Boulahcen and Abaaoud died afterward in a police siege.

Abdeslam slipped through a police dragnet to return to Brussels after the bloodbath in Paris, and though the target of an international manhunt, has not been found since.

In January, Belgian authorities said one of his fingerprints was found alongside homemade suicide bomb belts at an apartment in another area of Brussels. Belgian prosecutors said it wasn't known whether he had been at the address in the Schaerbeek district before or after the Paris attacks, or how long he had spent there.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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