Shots fired at Brussels police during search linked to Paris attacks

15th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

Shots were fired Tuesday at Belgian police in the capital Brussels as they carried out an operation linked to the Paris attacks, Belgian prosecutors told AFP.

The raid comes as Belgian police continue their hunt for Salah Abdeslam -- a key suspect in the November attacks which killed 130 people -- who comes from Brussels.

"Police were fired at," Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor, told AFP, adding that the search in the southern Forest district was "linked to the Paris attacks investigation".

Two suspects were on the run after the incident, the Derniere Heure newspaper reported.

Two Belgian police officers were injured in the incident with one hit in the ear as well as the head and in serious condition, the newspaper also reported.

Witnesses reported a heavy exchange of fire that lasted several minutes, RTL radio said.

People in two schools and two nurseries near the scene were asked to remain indoors and the security cordon around the area was extended, the local mayor's office said.

"The operation is ongoing," a spokesman from the mayor's office told AFP.

The incident took place across the street from an Audi auto factory and the train lines leading to the Gare du Midi railway station where Eurostar trains to London and Thalys trains to Paris run from.

- Brussels lockdown -

Two weeks after the Paris attacks Brussels was put on five days of lockdown with authorities warning of an imminent threat of violence.

Since mid-November, 11 people have been arrested and charged in Belgium in connection with the killings and eight are still in detention.

Abdeslam, who is believed to have played a key logistical role in the attacks, fled across the border to Belgium hours after the killings in Paris and is now one of the most wanted men in Europe.

Abdeslam and his associate Mohamed Abrini, both from the Molenbeek area of Brussels, are still at large.

Abdeslam was reportedly holed up in an apartment in the Schaerbeek district in north Brussels for three weeks after the Paris attacks.

In January, Belgian authorities said they had found two apartments and a house used by Abdeslam and other suspects in the run up to the attacks.

A fingerprint belonging to Abdeslam was found in the apartment along with traces of explosives, possible suicide belts and a drawing of a person wearing a large belt.

Authorities also found DNA traces from Bilal Hadfi, another of the attackers.

The other premises were a flat in Charleroi -- a town south of the capital Brussels where a major airport is located, as well as a house in the rural village of Auvelais near the French border.

arp-mad/dk/jm


© 2016 AFP

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