Belgian police found traces of explosives, bomb-making equipment and what appeared to be suicide belts in a Brussels apartment that may have been used by a key suspect in the November Paris attacks who is still on the run, authorities said Friday.
Salah Abdeslam, a suspected member of an Islamic State commando that carried out the shootings and bombings that killed 130 people in the French capital, fled to neighboring Belgium after the attacks.
Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said a fingerprint belonging to the fugitive was found in the third-floor apartment in the residential district of Schaerbeek, but investigators do not know when it was left there.
“Fingerprints don’t carry a date or time,” Van der Sypt told the French news agency Agence France-Presse. “Perhaps he went there to pick up the belts, or maybe he went there afterwards. The two hypotheses are possible.”
The print showed up in a search of the property in December, but the information was officially released Friday.
Investigators believe the apartment was used to make bombs for the Nov. 13 attacks.
“We found material to make explosives, we found traces of explosives and we found three belts. So you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to make the right deduction,” Van der Sypt told the Associated Press.
He said traces of the highly volatile explosive TATP, or acetone peroxide, which was packed into the suicide vests used in November, were found on a piece of cloth. Plastic bottles cut in half and containing an unknown substance also were found and were being tested by forensic specialists, he added.
Van der Sypt said investigators believed the apartment was used as a hideout after the attacks, in which Abdeslam’s older brother, Brahim, blew himself up at a cafe, injuring a waitress but failing to kill anyone except himself.
After the rampage was over, Abdeslam was picked up by two friends and driven to Brussels. Their vehicle was reportedly stopped by French police three times, but did not draw suspicion. Investigators believe the friends dropped Abdeslam in a street in Schaerbeek on Nov. 14 around 2 p.m. There has been no trace of him since.
The two friends are among 10 people arrested in Belgium in connection with the Paris attacks.
The apartment, on the quiet street of Rue Henri Berge, was rented under a false name that may have been used by one of those now under arrest, Van der Sypt said.
An international manhunt continues for the 26-year-old suspect.
Willsher is a special correspondent.