WATCH: World’s most wanted terrorist captured in Brussels
Incredible images show one of the prime terrorists behind the Paris terror attacks being wrestled to the ground by armed police following a raid on his Belgian hideout.
Salah Abdeslam, 26, was among the ISIS terror cell that massacred 130 at a rock concert, a football stadium and several cafes in November.
After evading French and Belgian authorities for four months, he was arrested during a siege on his bolthole in the run down Molenbeek district of Brussels.
Footage showed Abdeslam, dressed in a white hooded sweatshirt, trying to run past dozens of police officers before he was shot in the leg.
He was one of five terrorists, including three that helped hide him from the police, to be arrested today, a French prosecutor has confirmed. He said numerous weapons and ammunition were discovered inside the besieged building.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel hailed the arrests as a ‘success in the fight against terrorism’ but serious questions will be asked as to how Abdeslam evaded the authorities for so long.
He managed to evade capture for 126 days due to a series of blunders by the police, who have repeatedly raided the Brussels suburbs where he grew up.
Officers pulled him over on the night of the attacks on November 13, but released him because he was yet to be identified as a suspect.
Just 48 hours later, Belgian police failed to raid a house he was thought to be hiding because of a law prohibiting night time searches.
And on Tuesday, he escaped through a skylight as police stormed a flat in the Forest neighbourhood in Brussels where his fingerprints were later discovered.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel held a joint press conference with French President Francois Hollande who stressed the battle against extremism in western Europe is far from over.
He said: ‘It is not the final conclusion of this story because there have been arrests already and there will have to be more.
‘We know the terrorists’ network was widespread in Belgium, France, and other countries in Europe, too.
‘Until we have arrested all of those who took part, organised and financed the network that carried out the abominable attacks in Paris, our fight will not be over.
‘We have to go on with our efforts because we are aware there are still connections that lead us to Syria, where the Daesh [ISIS] group wanted these attacks to be organised.
‘It is from Syria that a number of these actors of this atrocity [Paris attacks] started.’
Hollande confirmed he has asked for Belgium to extradite Abdeslam to his country, adding: I’m certain of the extradition procedures and I believe he [Abdeslam] should be interrogated and punished in France.’
Criminal lawyer Sven Mary is said to have accepted the role of defending Abdeslam.
He was contacted on Abdeslam’s behalf as early as January this year, asking whether he would be willing to defend the terror suspect, it has been reported.
It came after the Belgian lawyer told daily newspaper Le Soir in late December: ‘If Salah Abdeslam begged me tomorrow, I would accept the role of being his lawyer.’
But the lawyer denied claims that he has already discussed the possibility with Abdeslam himself.
‘I have been in contact with someone from his immediate surroundings,’ the lawyer said, reported Belgian news site Standaard.
‘I want to speak directly with Abdeslam. You must have some sort of contact with the ones you defend, there should be a mutual trust.’
Abeslam was reportedly childhood friends with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the man dubbed as the ‘Belgian’ mastermind of the Paris attacks.
The pair spent time in jail for armed robbery and it is there that it is believed they became radicalised.
When his brother Brahim tried to travel to Syria, he was stopped and Abdeslam was questioned by police.
Belgian prosecutors later admitted they knew he had been radicalised but didn’t flag them up as a security threat to France.
For his part in the attacks on Paris, which killed 130, Abdeslam is thought to have rented the cars, the attackers used to drive to the various locations to gun people down.
He was described as being the logistics manager and also organised hotels, flats and ammunition.
On the night if the attacks, he was caught on CCTV outside a cafe that was targeted.
His brother Brahim blew himself up outside the Comptoir Voltaire brasserie in the 11th arrondissement
Later, officers pulled over Abdelsam on Saturday morning on the A2 motorway between Paris and Brussels but checked his ID and let him go.
He was travelling with two other people, just hours after he abandoned a car containing three Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles on the outskirts of the French capital.
Detectives soon realised their blunder when they discovered that Abdeslam had rented VW Polo abandoned near the scene of the massacre inside the Bataclan theatre.
However, by the time they alerted Belgian authorities the terror suspect had abandoned the car in Molenbeek, Brussels, an area known as the ‘jihadi capital of Europe’ and disappeared.
An international manhunt was launched.
In the days after the attacks, Belgian security forces staged several raids in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, where he lived, which has served as a haven for several jihadists in recent decades.
But there was no sign of him and he remained on the run for over four months.
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 have been searching for him ever since.
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 White House used its ‘significant resources and significant capabilities’ to assist the French and the Belgians.
He added: ‘They have taken steps to try to safeguard their country. We’re going to continue to stay in close touch with them on this.’