By Tom Ballard
Salah Abdeslam, a suspected terrorist involved in the Paris terror attacks four months ago that left 130 people dead, was arrested by officials in Belgium on Friday, March 18, according to CNN.
According to the Washington Post, 26-year-old Abdeslam was shot in the leg while police succeeded in arresting him and four other suspected terrorists. The same Washington Post article stated that Belgian authorities found Abdeslam’s fingerprints in an apartment that was raided by police on Tuesday, March 15. Ever since finding the fingerprints, authorities had closed in on the area and found Abdeslam hiding in an apartment in Molenbeek, a neighborhood in Brussels, at around 4:45 p.m.
Abdeslam, who is suspected to be the eighth person the Middle Eastern terrorist organization ISIS said took part in the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, was able to get past a security checkpoint at the French-Belgian border just hours after the attacks before he was identified as a suspect, according to NBC News. The attacks caused havoc at several locations, including a cafe and a concert hall.
“I have no doubt that the (Belgian) judicial authorities will address very quickly a request for (the) extradition (of Abdeslam to France),” French President François Hollande said in a press conference on Friday, March 18. “I’d like to thank the Belgian justice minister and the prosecutor (for their work).”
According to an ABC News article, Abdeslam allegedly rented a car that carried a group of terrorists to the Stade de France soccer stadium in Paris, along with the car that carried terrorists to the Bataclan theater in Paris where three gunmen took the lives of 90 people.
Four days after the Paris attacks, Abdeslam, a native of Brussels, had returned to the city and frantically tried to receive help from friends. According to ABC News, Abdeslam called friends while trying to find a way to secretly travel to ISIS-controlled land in Syria in order to evade authorities.
Following Abdeslam’s arrest, world leaders and politicians congratulated Belgian authorities for tracking down one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
“Abdeslam’s arrest sends the message to terrorists around the world that they cannot hide and that it’s only a matter of time before they answer for their heinous crimes,” Jeanne Shaheen, a senator from New Hampshire and member of the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, said in a statement.
“I want to congratulate French and Belgian investigators and law enforcement on their diligent work that led to this arrest,” she said.
Jean-Charles Brisard, chairman of the Paris-based Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, said that Abdeslam’s arrest will allow authorities to better understand the planning of the Paris attacks, according to the Washington Post.
“It’s really crucial,” Brisard said of the arrest. “Abdeslam had a role in virtually every stage of the planning and the preparation. He could be the missing link to the masterminds (of the attacks).”
A BBC article reported that Abdeslam is the only suspect from the Paris attacks that has been captured alive. Nine suspected terrorist from the attacks have been confirmed dead and authorities are still looking for Mohamed Abrini, another suspected terrorist from the attacks.