Saturday, March 19, 2016

France wants to extradite Paris attackers netted in Belgium

Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks in November of last year and the most wanted man in Europe, was arrested Friday in Belgium, Belgian federal police have confirmed.

Abdeslam was taken to Saint-Pierre University Hospital in Brussels to be treated for a gunshot injury to his leg, according to Belgian national television station RTBF.

The police operation was still ongoing and two strong explosions were heard on Friday night, a Xinhua reporter witnessed at the scene in the Brussels municipality of Molenbeek.

Abdeslam was arrested along with another suspect earlier this afternoon during the large-scale police operation.

Friday's operation follows a raid on Tuesday in the Brussels district of Forest in which one suspect was killed.

Abdeslam's fingerprints were later found in the raided apartment. He was believed to have been hiding there for several months. So far, all indications are that he was one of the two suspects who managed to escape after the police action on Tuesday.

Abdeslam is suspected of involvement in attacks in Paris as having provided logistics for the other attackers. The attacks killed 130 people at multiple locations in Paris on Nov. 13.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, two people thought to be accomplices of Abdeslam exfiltrated him from France to Belgium. They were checked several times by police but were not apprehended as the name of Abdeslam had not yet been connected to the events in Paris.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and French President Francois Hollande made a joint press conference Friday night following the arrest of Abdeslam.

An extradition request from the French judicial authorities was introduced.

At the press conference, Hollande and Michel hailed the Franco-Belgian cooperation that led to the arrest of Abdeslam.

Hollande said he "had confidence in the successful completion of the extradition request."

"Abdeslam was in Paris on Nov. 13 and participated in the attacks. All those who have contributed will be arrested," insisted Hollande.

"Everywhere in Belgium and France, the level of terrorist threat is very high," he added.

Michel said, "The battle against terrorism will not stop tonight even if it is a victory."

Regarding the alert level in Belgium, the head of Belgian government explained that the threat will be reassessed in the coming hours.

"We will see in the next few hours if the OCAM, the Threat Analysis and Coordination Body in Belgium, sets a new recommendation to the level of threat," said Michel.

Other operations within the framework of the Franco-Belgian investigation is currently underway in a commune of Molenbeek in Brussels.

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