UPDATE: 7:07 a.m. EST -- Belgian authorities reportedly said Monday that five more raids were conducted overnight Sunday in Brussels and the eastern city of Liège, leading to the detention of five people. The total number of people in custody since Sunday rose to 21 as Belgium’s capital city remained under lockdown for a third consecutive day.
Meanwhile, a federal prosecutor said in a statement that a BMW seen near Liège and rumored to contain Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam had no links to the ongoing investigation, the Associated Press reported.
The town hall in Brussels was reportedly evacuated Monday as the Belgian capital entered its third day of lockdown amid a massive hunt for Salah Abdeslam, a militant suspected to be involved in the Nov. 13 Paris terrorist attacks. The news comes amid reports that he may have escaped to Germany.
Abdeslam fled in a BMW vehicle, travelling in the direction of Germany, BBC reported, citing German tabloid newspaper Bild. The report, as yet unconfirmed, reportedly gives rise to concerns that Abdeslam, who has been on the run since the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, may have managed to slip away from Belgian police.
— Sofia Bettiza (@SofiaBettiza) November 23, 2015
Schools and underground transport services remained closed Monday with hundreds of troops patrolling the city's landmarks.
Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon said Monday that "investigations will continue until we've fixed this problem,” according to the Associated Press. He told Belgium's RTL broadcaster that Abdeslam "must have a lot of support on our territory. That's why all these searches being conducted at the moment are important."
On Sunday, 19 raids were conducted across the city in search of Abdeslam, leading to 16 arrests. Abdeslam is described by authorities as 26 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall and “dangerous.” He is thought to have helped the attackers with logistics and likely rented one of the cars used in the attacks.
Several of the Paris attackers had lived in Brussels, including the mastermind, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed Wednesday in a standoff with French police in the Paris suburb Saint-Denis. On Sunday, Paris police posted a picture of a man they said was the third suicide bomber, who detonated his explosive vest outside the Stade de France soccer stadium during the Paris attacks. Authorities urged the public to help identify the bomber’s name and personal information.
Meanwhile, Abdeslam’s brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, issued a call for his brother to surrender.
“We would rather see Salah in prison than in a cemetery,” Mohamed Abdeslam told Belgian broadcaster RTBF. “We would like Salah to hand himself in ... so that he can give us the answers that we are waiting for.”