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Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam still on the run after evading Belgian police raids

Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam still on the run after evading Belgian police raidsSixteen arrested in late-night raids but key target remains at large, while Brussels starts a third day of lockdown with schools and metro system closed.

Suspected Paris attacker Salah Abdelslam is still on the run after he evaded a series of late-night police raids in Belgium and the country started a third day of lockdown.

Officials said they arrested at least 16 suspects in 19 raids late on Sunday night aimed at rolling up a terrorist network which authorities believe is planning an attack similar to the one which left 130 people dead in Paris 10 days ago.

No weapons or explosives were found during the raids, and the failure to capture Abdeslam will further undermine wavering confidence in the competence of Belgium’s counter-terrorist agencies.

Eric van der Sypt, Belgium’s public prosecutor, told a news conference early on Monday that a judge would review the detentions of the 16 arrested. In one incident, police fired on a car that was later found in Brussels, but it was not clear, van der Sypt said, if it was linked to the case.

“Abdeslam Salah was not found during the raids,” he added.

French president François Hollande and British prime minister David Cameron visited the Bataclan concert venue, which saw the worst carnage of the Paris attacks, on Monday morning.

The two were meeting as the French leader presses for a stronger international coalition against Islamic State. He is heading to Washington and Moscow later in the week.

The Belgian operation came hours after the prime minister announced reinforced security measures and a third day of lockdown in Brussels.

All schools in Europe’s de facto capital have been shut as a precaution and the city’s metro suspended, prompting predictions of chaos as the working week starts on Monday.

Local media dubbed the move “historic” and “unprecedented”.

Much of the historic centre of Brussels was cordoned off as armed police – backed by soldiers – moved in on Sunday night. Helicopters could be heard flying over the capital.

Police evacuated restaurants in the centre, blocked off roads and called on residents to stay away from windows. The public prosecutor said there were also raids near Liège in the east and Charleroi, south of Brussels.

Other raids took place in Molenbeek, a run-down borough of Brussels where Abdeslam lived.

According to one unconfirmed local press report, the 26-year-old Frenchman and former petty criminal broke through a police cordon near Liège at the wheel of a luxury car.

Authorities said the unprecedented security lockdown this week was necessary to prevent a “serious and imminent” terrorist attack.
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