BRUSSELS, Feb 19, 2016 (AFP) – Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in November’s Paris attacks, was holed up for three weeks after the killings in an apartment in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek, a report said Friday
Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure said Abdeslam took refuge in the apartment from November 14, the day after the attacks in which 130 people died, until December 4 when special forces descended on the area.
Responding to the report, Belgium’s Federal prosecutor confirmed to AFP that a fingerprint belonging to Abdeslam was found in an apartment in Schaerbeek.
But a spokesman said investigators were not convinced it meant he had been in hiding there for the three weeks in question.
“We can confirm only the discovery of a fingerprint in the Schaerbeek hideout after a search conducted on December 10. We cannot comment further,” a spokesman said.
Abdeslam, 26, who is believed to have played a key logistical role in the attacks, fled across the border to Belgium hours after the November 13 killings and is now one of the most wanted men in Europe.
A total of 130 people were killed and more than 350 were injured in the attacks that were claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group as revenge for French air strikes on the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.
According to the report, on November 16 Abdeslam was on the third floor of a house at 86 Henri Berge Street in Schaerbeek at the same time as special forces were raiding a property in the Molenbeek area looking for him.
“According to our information, he stayed there for 20 days,” the daily said.
Special forces carried out unsuccessful searches in Schaerbeek on December 4 at which point, the report said, Abdeslam probably left.
Six days later, police raided 86 Henri Berge Street and discovered traces of explosives, three possible suicide belts, as well as the fingerprint belonging to Abdeslam.
The Belgian federal prosecutor said it was impossible to date the fingerprint in order to establish if the fugitive was there before or after the attacks.
Earlier this 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.