Saturday 24 February 2018

Terror suspect's arrest 'bungled' due to overnight raid ban

Salah Abdeslam
Salah Abdeslam

Henry Samuel in Paris

Belgian secret services traced Europe's most wanted man to a Brussels flat two days after the Paris attacks but bungled his capture because they were not allowed to raid the premises between 11pm and 5am, according to reports.

Salah Abdeslam, who was in Paris at the time of the November 13 attacks that killed 130 and whose brother blew himself up, is known to have returned to Belgium the following day as he was identified during a road check but allowed to leave. An explosive vest he is thought to have worn in Paris was found discarded in a bin.

But despite a massive manhunt during which Brussels was placed under maximum alert over an "imminent" terror attack, Abdeslam has evaded capture. Yesterday, Koen Geens, the Belgian justice minister, said that Abdeslam was "likely in a flat in Molenbeek (his home town outside Brussels) two days after the Paris attacks."

However, he said that because raids cannot take place between 9pm and 5am, under the country's penal code, unless a crime is in the process of being committed or in case of fire, the police had to wait until after 5am, by which time Abdeslam was nowhere to be seen.

The revelation came amid reports that two terror suspects of French nationality were arrested in a refugee shelter in Saltburg, Austria.

As controversy over Abdeslam's escape escalated, the federal prosecutor's office sought to defuse the allegations yesterday.

While it confirmed that police did have to wait several hours before conducting the raid, it said that the tip-off proved incorrect and that Abdeslam had not been at that address.

The reports follow recent revelations that Salah Abdeslam, his brother Brahim and Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged chief organiser of the Paris attacks, were on a terror suspect watch list handed by Belgian intelligence to the mayor of Molenbeek a month previously.

Irish Independent

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