Belgian police carry out operation aimed at arresting Paris suspect

2015-11-16 15:17
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Paris/Brussels - Belgian police were carrying out on Monday an operation in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek aimed at arresting a suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks, the Belga news agency quoted prosecutors as saying.

One person has been detained. The person's identity was not immediately known and there were conflicting reports about whether it could be Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman born in the Belgian capital for whom an international arrest warrant has been issued.

Abdeslam is the brother of a suicide bomber who died in Paris and is reported to possibly also have been an attacker. He was stopped by police near the Belgian border on Saturday, but not detained, the newspaper Le Monde reported.

The broadcaster RTL said that the person taken into police custody on Monday could be Abdeslam, while other media quoted prosecutors as denying this.

A third Abdeslam brother had previously also been detained, but his lawyer told Belga on Monday that he had been released and was no longer a suspect.

Mutilated bodies

The attacks in Paris on Friday left at least 129 people dead and some 350 injured.

They were "organised, thought out, planned out of Syria", French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday.

The Islamic State extremist group, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the killings. France on Sunday launched airstrikes against the militants' stronghold of al-Raqqa in Syria.

The French Defence Ministry said 10 French planes had dropped 20 bombs, destroying a commando position where munitions were stored and a training camp for terrorists.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian man who has fought in Syria and was thought to be the mastermind of a foiled plot to kill police officers in Belgium in January, is also suspected of being behind the Paris attacks, the Belgian newspapers De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad said.

The 28-year-old was notoriously recorded in a 2014 video driving a car dragging mutilated bodies. He has long been on the run. Brahim Abdeslam was friends with Abaaoud, the newspapers reported.

In France, meanwhile, police carried out 168 raids overnight into Monday, with 23 people detained and 31 weapons recovered - including a rocket launcher - Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said. More than 100 people have been placed under house arrest, he added.

‘This is only the beginning’

The France Info broadcaster reported that only one of the searches was directly linked to the Paris attacks.

"This is only the beginning. These actions will continue," Cazeneuve said of the police action. "Those who attack the republic will be caught and we will be relentless."

Valls warned that European countries face an ongoing risk of terrorist attacks.

"We know that operations were being prepared and are still being prepared, not only against France, but against other European countries," he said.

"This generation will have to live a long time with this terrorist threat. We must live, and live fully, but under this threat," he added.

France, countries across Europe and participants at the G20 summit in Turkey held a minute of silence at 1100 GMT in memory of the Paris attacks' victims. In the French capital, some people clapped after the minute of silence and sang the national anthem.


Authorities believe that three co-ordinated teams of terrorists armed with Kalashnikov rifles and explosive vests carried out the attacks on Friday evening, targeting the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars.

Five of the seven dead attackers have now been identified, Molins said in a statement issued on Monday.

Fingerprints from one of the suicide bombers at the Bataclan concert hall matched those taken in Greece in October from a man who was using a Syrian passport with the name of Ahmad Al Mohammad, 25, the statement said.

It also noted, however, that the authenticity of the passport still had to be verified.

Another Bataclan suicide bomber has been identified as the Paris-born Frenchman Samy Amimour, 28. He was known to law enforcement for links to terrorists and was the subject of an international arrest warrant issued in 2013, the statement said.

It adds that three of his relatives are in custody for questioning.

Read more on:    france  |  paris under attack

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