Paris attacks: Key suspect was held by Dutch police over drugs in February

alah Abdeslam is a key suspect in last week's terror attacks in Paris.
alah Abdeslam is a key suspect in last week's terror attacks in Paris.PHOTO: EPA

The Hague (AFP) - Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last week's terror attacks in Paris, was briefly held and fined in February for possession of cannabis, Dutch police said Wednesday.

"He was arrested during a routine roadside exercise in early February," a police spokesman told AFP, adding that a "limited" quantity of cannabis was found in his car.

Abdeslam was allowed to continue on his way after paying a 70 euro (S$106) fine, the police said.

Frenchman Abdeslam, accompanied by one of his brothers and another person was travelling south in a Belgian-registered car when he was stopped near the western Dutch town of Gorinchem.

The police did not say which brother was involved in the incident.

Abdeslam is believed to have fled after gunning down people at bars and cafes in Paris' 10th and 11th arrondissements late Friday alongside his brother Brahim Abdeslam, who later blew himself up outside a bar on Boulevard Voltaire, seriously wounding one person.

Mohamed Abdeslam, who was himself briefly detained in Belgium after the string of coordinated attacks in Paris left 129 people dead, on Tuesday advised his brother Salah to turn himself in.

"The best thing would be for him to surrender so that the legal system can shed full light on the case. I remind you that Salah has never been able to tell his side of the story to the police and that he is therefore presumed innocent." The Dutch police said that when Salah Abdeslam was flagged down in February his name was not on their system and there was no search warrant out for him.

"There was therefore no legal basis for opening up a more in-depth investigation," the spokesman said.

Salah Abdeslam, a 26 year-old Belgian-born French national, is suspected of involvement in the Paris attacks and a manhunt is underway.

French police raided addresses north of Paris early Wednesday.

That operation targeted the suspected mastermind of Friday's deadly attacks in the French capital, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, an Islamic State fighter who was previously thought to be in Syria after fleeing raids in his native Belgium earlier this year.

The purchase and consumption of up to five grams of cannabis is tolerated in coffee shops in the Netherlands.

Millions of French, Belgians and others head there each year but some buy larger quantities which leave them subject to arrest.