One of the most wanted men in Europe, Salah Abdeslam, considered one of the masterminds of the Paris terrorist attack, was captured in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels on Friday.
According to some sources, Abdeslam was wounded in the operation, which authorities say is ongoing.
Several of the terrorists connected to the November Paris attack have also been captured in Molenbeek. Two of the terrorists who carried out the operation were living there.
Friday’s raid came after Belgian authorities said that fingerprints in an apartment raided earlier this week in another Brussels neighborhood belonged to Abdeslam. A man killed in that raid is believed to have been an accomplice of Abdeslam, Belgian prosecutors said Friday.
Abdeslam, 26, fled Paris after the November gun and bomb attacks. 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.
On Tuesday, a joint team of Belgian and French police showed up to search a residence in the Forest area of Brussels 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 beside 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.
Molenbeek is a working-class district outside of Brussels and is apparently a hotbed of terrorism and radical Islam. The police consider it a “no-go” zone. Do you think that might change now?
They’ve arrested more than a dozen people in connection with the Paris attack. That’s an awful lot of people to keep a secret. But that appears to be part of the professionalism of Islamic State-trained fighters. Being able to maintain operational security in an urban environment means that there are probably other terrorists out there planning more devastating attacks.