Hunt on for 2 in Belgian raid linked to Paris attacks

Islamic Extremism

The broken windows of a house in which terror suspects were hiding are covered with plastic bags, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Belgian investigators were hunting Wednesday for two suspects who fled an apartment linked to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, one day after a police sniper killed a gunman holed up inside and authorities found a stock of ammunition and an Islamic State flag there, officials said.

Four officers were wounded in Tuesday’s joint French-Belgian raid in a Brussels neighborhood and related searches.

Prosecutors on Wednesday released without charges two men they held in the wake of the raid, leaving the hunt on for two suspects who have not been identified. Prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said they “are being actively sought.”

The dead man was identified as an Algerian man living illegally in Belgium, Mohamed Belkaid, whose only contact with authorities appeared to be a two-year-old theft charge, said Thierry Werts, a Belgian prosecutor.

Belkaid, 35, was shot to death by a police sniper as he prepared to fire on police from a window, Werts said. A Kalashnikov was found by his body, as well as a book on Salafism, an ultraconservative strain of Islam.

Inside the apartment in the Forest neighborhood of Brussels, police found the banner of the Islamic State extremist group as well as 11 Kalashnikov loaders and a large quantity of ammunition, the prosecutor said.

The anti-terror raid was linked to the Nov. 13 gun-and-bombing attacks on a stadium, cafes and a concert hall in Paris that left 130 people dead. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, in which Belgian citizens played key roles.

On Tuesday, a team of four Belgian and two French police officers unexpectedly came under fire by at least two people armed with a Kalashnikov and a riot gun as soon as they opened the door to the Forest apartment, according to a statement from the Belgian prosecutors. Three of the officers, including a French policewoman, were slightly wounded.

“The police officers present on the scene returned fire immediately and were able to retreat safely,” the statement said. In the anxious hours that ensued, gunfire from the apartment was often directed at police, and one more officer was slightly wounded in the head.

The search of another Forest residence Tuesday evening turned up another Kalashnikov as well as two loaded magazines, Belgian officials said.

Since the Paris attacks, the officials said 58 people have been detained in Belgian searches directly linked to the Paris attacks investigation and another 23 arrested in related probes.

Story by CCTV News