Paris terror suspect Salah Abdeslam received help from friends and family to stay hidden in Brussels for four months before getting captured.
The manhunt for Abdeslam included thousands of officers and dozens of raids in the Brussels neighborhood of Sint-Jans Molenbeek. Europe’s most wanted man was arrested Friday for his involvement in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that left 130 dead; it’s become clear locals knew where he was hiding all along.
“Everybody knew Salah was here, and not only him. It was also known that [accomplice] Mohamed Abrini was in the house next to the pharmacy,”an anonymous Molenbeek resident told The Daily Mirror. “In recent weeks they were walking around openly wearing ski hats.”
Authorities were under the assumption Abdeslam was hiding in Syria when the trail went cold in late November. Every time police got close to Abdeslam he managed to escape and move to a new location. Belgian police have now pinned down eight known locations where Abdeslam stayed, six of which were within a few blocks of his old apartment.
Abdeslam has revealed he was plotting a new Paris-style attack in Brussels during his refuge in the city. Police found “heavy weapons” during two raids last week and gained useful information about Abdeslam’s network during early interrogations.
“We have found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons, in the first investigations and we have found a new network around him in Brussels,” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said Sunday.
Thirty previously unknown people are now linked to the investigation, many of whom received training in Syria before traveling to Europe.
“That’s a challenge we face: the cooperation between local networks that are very integrated and people who are trained and come from the Middle East,” Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens said in a television appearance Sunday.
Molenbeek emerged as a European headquarters for terror networks during the 1990s. The neighborhood is infamous for radicalizing young Muslims and supplying terrorist with weapons. (RELATED: An Inside Look At The European Jihadi Capital That Keeps Brussels On High Alert)
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