BRUSSELS (AFP) - Police found fingerprints of Paris attacks fugitive Salah Abdeslam in a Brussels apartment raided this week, officials said on Friday as authorities continued searching for two suspects who fled the scene.
Reports suggested Abdeslam could even be one of the two men who slipped through a massive police cordon on Tuesday in the Forest quarter of Brussels after another suspect was shot dead.
Abdeslam, 26, is believed to have played a key role in the Nov 13 attacks claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that left 130 people dead.
Investigations have shown that several of those involved in the assaults lived in Brussels, where it seems increasingly likely the attacks were planned.
The Franco-Moroccan, whose older brother Brahim blew himself up in Paris, fled across the border to Belgium hours after the massacre and is now one of the most wanted men in Europe.
Belgium’s RTBF television station, citing unidentified sources, said it was “more than likely” that Abdeslam was one of the two suspects who fled the Forest apartment but Belgian authorities refused comment on that issue.
“We can confirm that fingerprints of Salah Abdeslam were found in the apartment in Forest,” spokesman for federal prosecutors Eric Van Der Sypt told AFP, without elaborating.
The firefight on Tuesday erupted after Belgian and French police searched the Forest property as part of continued investigations into the Paris attacks.
The officers went to the apartment believing it was rented under the same false identity as a hideout in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used by the Paris attackers.
A report on Friday said that the man killed during the anti-terror raid in Brussels is on a list of ISIS fighters leaked last week.
TV channel VRT said that the 35-year-old Algerian identified by the authorities as Mohamed Belkaid and who was living illegally in Belgium, was listed as a volunteer to commit a suicide bomb attack.
Contacted by AFP, Belgium’s federal prosecutor declined to comment on the report.
Police found a Kalashnikov assault rifle, extremist Islamic literature and and ISIS flag near Belkaid after he was shot.
Asked whether the one of the suspects who escaped the shootout was Abdeslam, a source close to the investigation said: “We can obviously ask ourselves the question.”
Another Abdeslam fingerprint was found in December in a different Brussels apartment, where investigators believe the fugitive hid for three weeks immediately following the attacks.
Belgium has been at the centre of the investigation into the Paris attacks almost from day one.
The ringleader, ISIS member Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was also from Brussels. He was killed in a raid in Paris shortly after the attacks.
Both had links to the largely immigrant Brussels district of Molenbeek which was targeted by authorities after the attacks.
Brahim Abdeslam, Salah’s brother, was buried in a discreet ceremony on Thursday in Brussels.
Another of the Paris attackers, Bilal Hadfi, was buried quietly in the same cemetery in the northwest of the city last week.