Two suspects still wanted after Salah Abdeslam arrest

After the arrest of Abdeslam (left), two suspects are on the run - Mohamed Abrini (right) and an unidentified male.
After the arrest of Abdeslam (left), two suspects are on the run - Mohamed Abrini (right) and an unidentified male.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The arrest in Brussels of top Paris attacks fugitive Salah Abdeslam leaves two suspects still on the run since the militant rampage in November that claimed 130 lives.

Following is a summary of what investigators know so far about the pair on their wanted list.

Mohamed Abrini and Abdeslam became friends when they were teenagers, according to their families, who are next-door neighbours in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, a known hotbed of Islamist radicalism.

[PHOTO: AFP]

Suspected attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud (top row, left) and Brahim Abdeslam (bottom row, second left) took part in the Bars and restaurants shootings with a third unidentified man. Samy Amimour (bottom row, second right), Omar Ismail Mostefai (bottom row, centre) and Foued Mohamed Aggad (top row, second right), attacked the Bataclan concert hall. Bilal Hadfi (bottom row, right), and two unidentified men (top row, right and bottom row, left) blew themselves outside the Stade de France stadium. Salah Abdeslam (top row, second left) may have conveyed the Stade de France attackers and is still on the run, as well as Mohamed Abrini (top row, centre) who have been seen with Salah Abdeslam on Nov 11.

 

Nicknamed "Brioche", the 31-year-old Belgian of Moroccan origin is thought to have given up training as a welder at age 18 and begun gravitating towards the extremist milieu.

Previously known to Belgian police for a series of thefts and drug-related offences, Abrini is suspected of helping to plan the Paris attacks.

His arrest warrant issued by a French judge on Nov 24 warns he is "dangerous and probably armed".

He is of "athletic build, 1.8m tall, dark hair, dark eyes (and) fine features", it reads.

There has been no trace of Abrini since Nov 12, the day before the Paris attacks.

He is known to have travelled abroad several times last year. In June, he flew to Istanbul, from where investigators believe he may have travelled to Syria for a brief period.

His younger brother Souleymane was killed in 2014 at age 20 while fighting in an Islamist militia headed by Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the Paris attacks who was killed in a police raid on Nov 18.

Abrini was spotted in mid-July in Birmingham, the British hub of Islamist extremism.

The next month he was in Germany and Morocco, but he disappeared from the radar until Nov 10.

Abrini travelled by car with Salah Abdeslam and his brother Brahim on Nov 10 and 11 when the trio made two round-trips between Brussels and Paris to rent hideouts for the attackers.

Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up at a restaurant during the Nov 13 attacks in Paris targeting a concert hall, bars and restaurants and the national Stade de France stadium.

On Nov 12, Abrini was spotted at a Belgian petrol station near the French border in one of the cars taking the attackers to Paris.

He has not been seen since, although relatives say Abrini, who has three brothers and two sisters, was in Brussels on the evening of Nov 13.

Investigators are unsure whether he took part in the Paris attacks, helped with logistics or acted only as a driver.

 
 

The real name of the second fugitive is unknown. He used false papers in the name of Soufiane Kayal at the border between Austria and Hungary on Sept 9 when he was travelling with Abdeslam and Mohamed Belkaid, a 35-year-old Algerian who was shot dead on Tuesday during a police raid in Forest, south-west of Brussels.

The three men posed as tourists heading to Vienna on holiday and did not raise suspicions.

One hideout in central Belgium, a house near the town of Namur, was rented in the name of Soufiane Kayal.

Investigators suspect that Kayal and Belkaid were in telephone contact with some of the attackers on the evening of Nov 13. They say there is a "strong possibility" that Belkaid was the recipient in Brussels of a text message saying "It's started", sent at 9:42pm from the Bataclan concert hall as the massacre of 90 people began.

A second Belgian phone in the same location called Abaaoud that evening.

On Nov 17, Belkaid used a fake ID in the name of Samir Bouzid to transfer €750 ($1,100) to Hasna Ait Boulahcen, Abaaoud's cousin, so she could find him a hiding place in the Paris area.

A search warrant was issued on Dec 4 for the Kayal and Bouzid aliases.

Belgian investigators say Bouzid is "more than likely" the alias used by Belkaid.