“We got him,” the Belgian justice minister told reporters, confirming reports in the Belgian press that Abdeslam had been caught alive, the Guardian reported. French president François Hollande earlier said an operation was under way in Brussels linked to the Paris attacks. Gunshots and explosions were heard in the Molenbeek area.
The police operation in Molenbeck was launched just as Belgian prosecutors confirmed that Abdeslam’s fingerprints had been found at a flat that was raided in the Forest area of Brussels on Tuesday. Two suspects fled that raid. Prior to the Molenbeek raid, Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said it had not been established how old the fingerprints were, or how long Abdeslam spent in the apartment.
Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national who grew up in Brussels, fled Paris for Belgium by car hours after the November 13 attacks which killed 130 people. He is believed to have played a key role in organising the attacks. Police believe he played a key role in the logistics of the Paris attacks and escorted the three suicide bombers who blew themselves up at the Stade de France as part of the coordinated attacks.
Abdeslam reportedly stayed holed up in an apartment in the Schaerbeek district in north Brussels for three weeks after the Paris attacks. In January, Belgian authorities said they had found two apartments and a house used by Abdeslam and other suspects in the run-up to the attacks.
A fingerprint belonging to Abdeslam was found in one apartment along with traces of explosives, possible suicide belts and a drawing of a person wearing a large belt. (IANS)