Belgium: Prime suspect in November Paris attacks in police drag net

Belgian police have reportedly arrested Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the November 13, 2015 attacks in France. The website of the Belgian paper Het Laatste Nieuws (HLN) said Friday that the fugitive Belgian national was arrested after a shootout south of the capital, Brussels. The daily said Abdeslam was wounded in the leg after police fired shots during the search operation that started in the suspect’s apartment earlier in the day in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels. It said Abdeslam was taken to the hospital, adding that peace has returned to Molenbeek but police will continue its search. 

The RTBF, a French-language TV, reported earlier that two people had been wounded. It said Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel left a European Union summit to follow the very sensitive issue. French President Francois Hollande had said an important operation is underway in a Brussels neighborhood in connection with the November attacks in Paris which killed 130 people. The search operation comes three days after Belgian and French security forces carried out a raid in the Forest neighborhood of Brussels, claiming to have neutralized a suspect of Paris attacks.

Belgian prosecutors said Friday the man shot dead in the raid was believed to have been an accomplice to Abdeslam as fingerprints found inside indicate Abdeslam himself was there at some point too. Belgium has tried to play a significant role over the past four months in finding nationals who were the key figures behind the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam’s brother Brahim was one of the main attackers in Paris. Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader of the attacks, was also a Brussels resident while another attacker, Bilal Hadfi, was said to have lived for a time in Forest. The repeated raids in Brussels and elsewhere in Belgium, which have led to 19 arrests in connection to the Paris carnage, are meant to prevent attacks in the small Western European country as it has been prime recruiting ground in Europe for Daesh, a Takfiri group based in Iraq and Syria.

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