What we know about Salah Abdeslam, the elusive Paris terror suspect arrested in Brussels

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has been on the run since the November 13 attacks (Photo: AFP)

 Europe’s most wanted man, Salah Abdeslam, has been arrested in Brussels after a police raid Friday.

The 26-year-old Belgian national is the only known living suspect in the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people last November — and he has been on the run ever since. According to the Belgian federal prosecutor, Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in a Brussels apartment that was raided earlier this week.

The day after the November 13 attacks, the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, claimed responsibility, referring to “eight brothers,” though police had initially only identified seven suspected attackers. ISIS also referred to attacks in the 10th, 11th and 18th arrondissements. An attack had not taken place in the 18th, but that is where authorities found the car they believe Abdeslam had been driving, suggesting that he was the eighth “brother” and may have backed out of another planned attack.

 

Abdeslam's brother is Ibrahim Abdeslam, the suicide bomber believed to have been responsible for the explosions outside a café on Boulevard Voltaire.

 

Abdeslam, a French citizen, has been on the run since the city-wide attacks, eluding authorities, who, at one point, believed he might have fled to Syria. Investigators reported that Abdeslam bought 10 detonators and batteries at a fireworks shop outside Paris before the November attacks.

 

In this framegrab taken from VTM, armed police officers take part in a raid in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels, Belgium, Friday March 18, 2016. After an intense four-month manhunt across Europe and beyond, police on Friday captured Salah Abdeslam, the top fugitive in the Paris attacks in the same Brussels neighborhood where he grew up. (VTM via AP) BELGIUM OUT

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In January,  images surfaced showing Abdeslam at a gas station in northern France, near the Belgian border, on November 14. 

 

According to the British newspaper the Independent, Abdeslam's professional résumé includes a two-year stint as a railway mechanic, in addition to working for family businesses, and a personal reputation as a hard-partying gambler, drinker and smoker. A childhood friend who recalled Abdeslam's interest in football and motorcycles told the Independent, “I didn't see any sign of hatred in him whatsoever.”

 

However, another childhood friend of Abdeslam's was Abdelhamid Abaaoud,  the alleged mastermind behind the Paris attacks, who was killed in a raid by French authorities days after the attacks. Before the November attacks, Abaaoud had been suspected of organizing a number of other acts of terrorism throughout France and Belgium and was the subject of an international arrest warrant for recruiting people to join radical Islamic groups in Syria. The Independent has reported that the two were arrested together for armed robbery in 2010 and “may have been radicalized during their time in prison.”

A man holds his head in his hands as he lays flowers in front of the Carillon cafe, in Paris, Nov.14, 2015. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

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The armed robbery wasn't Abdeslam's first brush with the law. His rap sheet includes convictions for a number of petty crimes, including possession of cannabis, for which he was arrested and fined by Dutch police in February 2015. The same month,  Belgian investigators questioned Abdeslam and his brother Ibrahim after Ibrahim took a trip to Turkey and was deported by Turkish authorities. 

Rumors emerged after the Paris attacks that Abdeslam was a regular at a gay bar in Brussels. Other acquaitances of the alleged terrorist reported that Abdeslam often spent time playing video games at a bar previously owned by his brother, Ibrahim.