Belgian convicts still at large after helicopter escape

25th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Three escaped prisoners, including a man described as a "real psychopath", remained at large in Belgium Friday after breaking out of jail with a helicopter, justice officials said.

BRUSSELS, July 24, 2009 (AFP) - "They are still on the run," a prosecuting magistrate told AFP, a day after the three broke out of the jail in Bruges, northern Belgium with the help of two accomplices and a helicopter rental pilot they took hostage.

Contacted by the Belgian authorities, the international policy agency Interpol issued an "Orange Notice" to its 187 member nations, which it said will "severely limit their movements and ability to travel across borders".

The three have been identified as Mohammed Johry, Abdel Had Kahjary Mulloul and Ashraf Sekkaki.

Sekkaki, 26 and described by a justice ministry spokesman as "a real psychopath", has spent much of the last decade behind bars for his part in around a dozen attacks on banks, some of them involving hostages.

He already escaped once from prison -- in September 2003 -- and managed to avoid capture for five months.

Interpol's Orange Notice contains the names, photographs and fingerprints of the three fugitives.

"It is vital that police have the information they need to locate, identify and arrest these fugitives," Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble said in a statement.

He said jailbreaks by helicopter were becoming "far too common".

One of the accomplices -- a 22-year-old Moroccan -- was captured Thursday in the prison because there was not enough room in the helicopter for all those involved.

He was expected to be charged later Friday, the justice ministry said.

The pilot, who was later set free, said that he "refused to take off again with six people aboard, because his aircraft would have crashed due to the extra weight," the spokesman said.

The helicopter was abandoned at Aalter, on the outskirts of Bruges.

The convicts then seized a vehicle from a nearby petrol station, later switching cars and taking a female driver hostage before dropping her off at Melle in Flanders, according to the police.


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