Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in the Paris attacks who is currently absconding, had allegedly travelled to Hungary to hire a team from unregistered immigrants passing through the country, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported Thursday, citing government officials. The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris killed 130 people and triggered a manhunt for suspects, including Abdeslam, who was reportedly dropped off in Brussels by a friend a day after the attacks.
"I can confirm that one of the main organizers of the Paris terror attacks was in Budapest," Janos Lazar, the chief of staff for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, told a news conference in Budapest, according to AFP, without naming the man. Lazar also did not mention the people that the suspect hired. A government source confirmed to AFP that the man in question was Belgian-born Abdeslam, for whom the trail has reportedly gone cold.
A report by CNN cited an official as saying that investigators believe that Abdeslam got scared about blowing himself up during the Paris attacks. "He was freaking out, he was scared when he called his friends in Brussels to come and pick him up that night from Paris," the official said, according to CNN. Abdeslam also reportedly felt that the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack, may not accept him after he ditched plans to blow himself up and escaped.
Lazar said that the suspect was at the Keleti station in Budapest and was "recruiting a team from immigrants who had refused to register with Hungarian authorities," AFP reported. He added that the suspect in question later left the country with the recruits.
A French source familiar with the investigation told AFP that a car rented by Abdeslam was in Hungary on Sept. 17, but it was not clear if Abdeslam was in the car. On Sept. 9, Abdeslam was also reportedly seen in Austria and was stopped along with two others during a routine traffic check. He was in a car with Belgian number plates after traveling south from Germany and told police that he was “on holiday.” The other two men with him have not been named in connection with the Paris attacks, AFP cited authorities as saying last month.
Ahmet Dahmani, a Belgian citizen said to be in touch with Abdeslam, was arrested in Turkey on Nov. 21 and is believed to have flown in from Amsterdam. Officials also said that Dahmani was met by ISIS fighters in Amsterdam and was set to be taken to Syria.
The officials said, according to CNN, that the Belgian-French network that orchestrated the Paris attacks was formed by friends, who were part of gangs and spent time together in prison. A report on Wednesday also said that seven suspects, wanted in connection to the Paris attacks, are believed to be in Germany while Brussels arresteed two suspects Wednesday morning for questioning, following a raid.