Following the arrest of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Belgium on Friday, INTERPOL has advised extra vigilance at border controls to its 190 member countries.
The world police body is warning that the capture of the 26-year-old Belgian-born French national, a key suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks, may encourage any accomplices to attempt to flee Europe, or elsewhere.
An advisory sent to all member countries by the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, recommends enhanced checks at control points, particularly against INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database which contains some 56 million documents from 172 countries.
The SLTD database also currently holds details of some 250,000 stolen and lost Syrian and Iraqi passports, of which more than 190,000 were reported stolen as blank.
Among those is the Syrian passport found at the Stade de France following the attempted suicide bombing during the Paris attacks, which had been recorded in the SLTD database in April 2014 as part of a batch of 1,452 stolen blank passports. In addition, INTERPOL’s global database on Foreign Terrorist Fighters contains information on some 6,000 individuals provided by more than 50 countries.
“Belgium is to be congratulated on the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, but this is just one piece in a larger puzzle,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “Whilst it is too soon to speculate in which direction the investigation will proceed, anyone linked to Abdeslam will be concerned that their location could be revealed and attempt to run to try and avoid detection.”
“It is now vital that countries continue to cooperate and make thorough checks against the information available to them to avoid suspects slipping through the net,” added Stock.
The 24-hour Command and Coordination Centre at the General Secretariat is liaising closely with the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus in Brussels and Paris to provide all necessary support andensure the rapid relay of information to other member countries as part of the ongoing international investigation into the Paris attacks.
Abdeslam fled to Belgium shortly after the Paris attacks and has been in hiding since, although some intelligence sources believed he had fled to Syria. He was located following a raid on a property in Brussels, where his fingerprints were found on a glass. This told the authorities that Abdeslam was in Belgium and a large pizza order placed shortly after this raid raised suspicions. Police traced the order and found that Abdeslam and others were hiding in the basement of another Brussels property.
Abdeslam is now being interrogated in Belgium. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has suggested that Abdeslam was preparing further attacks, this time in Brussels, and that a number of heavy weapons have been found as part of their investigations.