The search for Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects believed to be linked to last Friday's attacks in Paris, has extended to the Netherlands, CNN reported Thursday, citing a source close to the investigation. However, a representative for the Dutch justice ministry has denied the report.
Nathalie Gallant, the lawyer for Abdeslam’s brother Mohamed, said that the family has not heard from Salah. She added that they hope Salah will surrender after hearing about the death of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the attacks that killed at least 129 people and injured about 350 others. The CNN report also said that Belgium, where Salah and Abaaoud lived and spent time together in jail, has become the focal point for the manhunt.
Six raids across Belgium were carried on Thursday, leading to the arrest of nine people. Authorities said that some of them were linked to Bilal Hadfi, one of the suicide bombers who blew himself up during the attacks in the French capital.
According to a Thursday report by the Telegraph, which cited a Belgian newspaper, Salah was spotted in Belgium and a source talked to him.
"Salah is in Molenbeek. I met him on Tuesday night. He is there, but not for long," the source told Sudpresse, adding that Salah regrets his actions now. "He told me he had gone too far. He was overwhelmed by what was happening. This could have consequences for his family."
The report added that there could be retaliation from fighters of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, because he was unable to complete his task of "martyrdom." Salah had allegedly arranged for the car that was used by the attackers and had fled during the attacks, while another brother of Salah, Brahim, 31, blew himself up outside the Comptoir Voltaire Café on Friday, injuring three people.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday that the country does not know if Salah was in France or Belgium, or whether more people linked to the attackers were still on the run.
"The threat is there. We don't know at this point in the investigation if there are groups, individuals, who are directly linked to the attack on Friday evening," Valls told France 2, a local news network, according to the Telegraph, adding: "We don't know yet one can imagine. That's why the threat is still there."
Valls also reportedly said: "We must not rule anything out. I say it with all the precautions needed. But we know and bear in mind that there is also a risk of chemical or bacteriological weapons," adding: "The macabre imagination of the masterminds is limitless."
French police officials had conducted a raid in Saint-Denis on Wednesday and had arrested nine people from there. The raid reportedly targeted Abaaoud and Salah.