Salah Abdeslam, a key suspect in last November’s Paris attacks, has been charged in Belgium with attempted murder over a shootout with police, prosecutors said Thursday.
Abdeslam, a 26-year-old Frenchman, was arrested in Brussels on March 18, four days before deadly attacks on the Belgian capital’s international airport and Maelbeek subway station.
The shootout with police had occurred on March 15 in the Brussels neighbourhood of Forest. One suspect died and four officers were injured after police sought to search an apartment linked to the Paris attacks.
There has long been speculation that Abdeslam may have been one of the suspects who managed to flee that afternoon. His fingerprints were found in the Forest apartment.
One of the suicide bombers who later died in the Brussels attacks is reported to have rented the Forest apartment.
The new charge could free the way for Abdeslam to be extradited to France for prosecution over the Paris attacks. His lawyer had earlier this month said that a police interrogation over the March 15 incident still had to be carried out beforehand.
Abdeslam is believed to have planned to carry out a suicide bombing at the Stade de France football stadium during the Paris attacks, but to then have backed out. His brother was one of the suicide bombers who died in the attacks, which left 130 people dead.
Also on Thursday, a Belgian court extended the detention of another man linked to the Paris attacks by one month, prosecutors said.
The 34-year-old Belgian, identified only as Abid A, has been charged with participating in the activities of an extremist group and harbouring a criminal.
He was arrested together with Abdeslam on March 18, along with two other members of his family, which prosecutors say had hosted Abdeslam while he hid out in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek.