Brussels // Police on Friday captured the main suspect in November’s attacks in Paris after four months on the run.
Salah Abdeslam, 26, is believed to the last surviving member of the 10-strong commando team that carried out the November 13 attacks claimed by ISIL that left 130 people dead.
“We got him,” Belgium’s immigration minister Theo Francken tweeted after the arrest. French police said he had been wounded in the leg during his capture.
Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said two other suspects had also been arrested.
Hours earlier, Belgian prosecutors revealed that Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found in a flat in another part of Brussels where a suspected ISIL militant was killed in a raid earlier this week.
Belgium has been at the centre of the investigation into the Paris attacks almost from day one, and has come under fire for alleged blunders that let the perpetrators slip under the radar.
Abdeslam is thought to have fled to Brussels the day after the gun and bombing rampage on Paris nightspots after refusing to blow himself up.
His capture in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels came just a day after his brother Brahim, who was one of the suicide bombers, was buried in the Belgian capital.
The Franco-Moroccan slipped past three police checks in France as he fled to Belgium just hours after the terror assaults, a source close to the probe said in December, and is believed to have hidden in a flat in Brussels for at least three weeks afterwards.
Investigators believe Abdeslam hired one of the cars used in the Paris attacks and driven the suicide bombers to the Stade de France with instructions to also blow himself up.
But he apparently backed out, and an explosives-filled suicide vest was later found in Paris in a region that mobile phone signals indicated he had been in.
The ringleader of the attacks, ISIL member Abdelhamid Abaaoud, also from Brussels, was killed in a raid in Paris in November.
Another of the Paris attackers, Bilal Hadfi, was last week buried in the same cemetery as Abdeslam’s brother.
Both had links to Molenbeek, a largely immigrant district which has been a hotbed of extremist violence for decades.
Abdeslam and his brother had run a bar in the area until it was shut down by the authorities a few weeks before the Paris attacks.
US president Barack Obama yesterday phoned Mr Michel and the French president Francois Hollande to congratulate them on the arrests.
* Agence France-Presse