The world’s most wanted man, a prime suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks, has been wounded and captured in a dramatic police raid in Brussels.
Salah Abdeslam was shot in the leg by police commandos following a four-month international manhunt and has been arrested in the district of Molenbeek in the Belgian capital.
The country’s minister for asylum and migration, Theo Francken, confirmed the capture this afternoon announcing: ‘We got him’.
But the operation is continuing tonight and fresh gunshots were heard at about 5.30pm – an hour after Abdeslam’s capture – amid reports more suspects are holed up.
Prosecutors said earlier today that his fingerprints were found at the scene of a separate police raid on a Brussels flat, which took place on Tuesday.
The 26-year-old, suspected of being involved in the Bataclan massacre during the slaughter of 130 people in Paris in November, was said to be one of the suspects who went on the run after a shoot-out.
But he was tracked to a home in Molenbeek in a fresh raid conducted by police this afternoon.
It is understood grenades were used in the operation, which unfolded at about 4.30pm.
Gun shots and explosions were heard while white smoke was seen in the area as police moved in on Abdeslam, who had been on the run for 126 days.
Emergency services were quick to arrive at the scene, which was closed off by officers wearing heavy riot gear.
A Belgium police source confirmed that he had been ‘caught alive’.
Abdeslam was wounded, and then retreated into a house in Molenbeek with two men. At least one of the other men is wounded, and one may be dead, said the source.
It is thought that Abdeslam suffered a ‘flesh wound’ after escaping Tuesday’s raid before retreating to Molenbeek, where he was born and brought up. He has been taken to hospital.
A French television station later posted an image of the moment the terror suspect was arrested.
A lawyer for the families of those who lost their lives in the Paris massacre have demanded that he is extradited to France immediately.
The prime minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, was seen rushing out of a European Council summit in Brussels as news of the raid broke.
EU leaders are meeting in the Belgian capital, just five miles away from where the anti-terror operation was taking place in Molenbeek.
Francois Hollande, who is in Brussels for the EU summit, confirmed that today’s police operation was linked to last November’s attacks on Paris.
Despite Abdeslam’s arrest, the police operation was continuing this evening and the army is on the scene, which is near two schools.
Two men are still believed to be holed up in a building in the area and drones are being used as part of the police operation. Fire engines and ambulances were seen driving into the gated complex, which remains under armed police guard, and a helicopter hovered overhead.
In addition to Abdeslam, the whereabouts of two Paris attack suspects remains unknown, including fellow Molenbeek resident Mohamed Abrini and a man known under the alias of Soufiane Kayal.
The building is owned by the local municipality. The flat where he was arrested is believed to have been rented by the same person since 2009, according to RTBF.
This afternoon, the White House revealed that the US had been helping French and Belgian authorities to boost security since November’s Paris attacks, and that this would continue.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: ‘The United States obviously has significant resources and significant capabilities, and we have used them to assist the French and the Belgians as they have conducted investigations into the attacks and as they have taken steps to try to safeguard their country. We’re going to continue to stay in close touch with them on this.’
Salah Abdeslam was shot in the leg by police commandos and has been arrested in the district of Molenbeek (pictured) in the Belgian capital
Francois Hollande and his Belgian counterpart watched the raid unfold while they were at a summit nearby
The operation is continuing tonight and fresh gunshots were heard at about 5.30pm – an hour after Abdeslam’s capture
Police at the scene of a security operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek in Brussels, Belgium
Salah’s brother Brahim, who died in the November Paris attacks which left 130 people dead, was buried Thursday in a Brussels cemetery
Salah’s brother Brahim, who blew himself p in the November Paris attacks, was buried on Thursday in a Brussels cemetery.
Referring to the police operation earlier this week, in which one Islamic gunman was shot dead by a police sniper, Belgian public broadcaster RTBF had said this morning: ‘According to our information, it is more than likely that he is one of the two individuals who escaped during the shootout.’
It was not the first time Abdeslam had evaded police.
It is believed he stayed in Schaerbeek, Belgium, for some weeks following the attacks in the French capital before being tracked down by police today.
Eric Van der Sypt said the fugitive may have been at the property for ‘days, weeks or months’.
Surveillance footage at a petrol station showed him returning by car to Belgium a day after the Paris attacks.
He also avoided capture when French police checked his papers shortly before he was listed as wanted. Authorities had been searching for him ever since.
A third man is thought to be holed up in a building in the area and drones are being used as part of the police operation
Police operation: The raid happened at this building which is close to two schools in Molenbeek, Brussels
A Belgian police dog handler holds back onlookers during the anti-terror operation in the Molenbeek
Police secure an area during a police raid. Despite Abdeslam’s arrest, the police operation was continuing this evening and the army is on the scene
Abdeslam was thought to have been the logistic coordinator who rented cars and equipped the gunmen and suicide bombers who targeted bars, restaurants and a music hall in Paris and may have taken part himself.
Last month a source close to the French inquiry said no DNA from Abdeslam had been found on a suicide belt discovered in the French capital.
The explosive belt was found in a dustbin in the southern Parisian suburb of Montrouge on November 23.
Telephone data placed Abdeslam in the same area just after the attacks – but the lack of DNA on the belt suggested that he had not worn it.
Since mid-November, 11 people have been arrested and charged in Belgium in connection with the killings, with eight remaining in custody.
Salah Abdeslam was shot in the leg by police commandos and has been captured alive in the district of Molenbeek in the Belgian capital
Raid: Abdeslam has now been wounded and captured in a fresh raid conducted by police this afternoon
Gun shots and explosions were heard while white smoke was seen in the area as police moved in on Abdeslam, who had been on the run for 126 days
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