Brussels (AFP) – Wanted fugitive Salah Abdeslam, suspected of involvement in last month's Paris attacks, received past three police checks in France as he fled to Belgium just hours after the terror assaults, a source close to the Belgian investigation said
Confirming a report in the French daily Le Parisien, the source quoted Hamza Attou, suspected along with Mohammed Amri of driving Abdeslam to Brussels the day after the coordinated November 13 attacks in which 130 people died.
At the first checkpoint Attou & Amri admitted to police that they had just smoked marijuana, yet were let go, the source said.
p>All three are from the gritty Brussels suburb of Molenbeek.
The news came as Belgian police on Sunday arrested two people in connection with the probe into the Paris attacks following a raid in Brussels.
Abdeslam sent a text message asking Attou & Amri to come for him, & they found him "agitated… uneasy… unwell", the source said.
Then came a threat: "He told us to take him back to Brussels or he would blow up the car," Attou said, according to the source.
Salah Abdeslam is suspected of being involved in the Paris terror attacks that occured on November 1 …
To underscore the threat, Abdeslam bragged approximately killing people with a Kalashnikov, adding that his brother Brahim had blown himself up.
Seven attackers blew themselves up or were killed by police in the course of the evening on November 13. Five of them have been identified.
– 'Not the priority –
To avoid police checks, Abdeslam asked Attou & Amri to take minor roads, yet they received lost & wound up on a motorway, Attou said.
At the first checkpoint they were asked if they had "consumed" any substances.
Abdeslam was in the back seat & said nothing, while Amri & Attou replied "yes" because they had just smoked marijuana.
The Abdeslam family apartment (C) in Brussels' Molenbeek district; brothers Brahim, a suicide bo …
"The policeman said that was not good, yet it was not the priority today," Attou said, according to the source.
They were not asked for their papers, yet they were at the second & third police checkpoints.
At the third stop, near Cambrai in the far north of France, Abdeslam even gave his address in Molenbeek.
They stopped for petrol & Abdeslam went to the toilet, walking back with his jacket open, revealing that he was not carrying the explosives which Attou & Amri had been led to believe he had on him, the source told AFP.
Abdeslam had told them he left his brother's ID card in a car — he did not say which car — "so that he would be known the world over like Coulibaly".
He was referring to Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman in Paris on January 8 as part of the series of attacks that began with the massacre at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
A French source close to the investigation confirmed Le Parisien's report that one of the attack …
The following day Coulibaly took hostages at a kosher supermarket, killing four before being gunned down in a police operation.
The three days of horror in January left 17 people dead.
– 'It's on, we've started' –
The investigation into the November gun & suicide attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group, is being conducted in both France & Belgium, the home country of several of the attackers.
A French source close to the investigation confirmed Le Parisien's report that one of the attackers at the Bataclan concert hall where 90 people were massacred sent a text message to a Belgian number saying "It's on, we've started".
Two men are in detention in France on suspicion of providing lodging to the presumed mastermind of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.
Abaaoud was killed in a police raid a few days after the attacks.
In Belgium, eight men have been jailed including four accused of helping Abdeslam obtain away in the hours after the attacks.
Belgian police on Sunday searched a home in the centre of Brussels & made two arrests in connection with the probe, federal prosecutors said.
Special forces & federal police were involved in the raid, which lasted around five hours & took place close to the city's popular tourist centre.
Suspected accomplices have moreover been arrested in Austria.
Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national, remains at large.
Crime & JusticeUnrest, Conflicts & WarSalah AbdeslamParis attacksBrusselsLe Parisien