The story of a week where the conflict between terrorist and law enforcement erupted on the streets of Brussels, as told by those involved.
Friday 18 March
– the arrest of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek.
“We’ve got him!” – Theo Francken, State Secretary for Asylum and Migration, Belgium tweets news of Abdeslam’s arrest.
“The fight will not be over until all those who can do harm “ French President Francois Hollande says the Salah Abdeslam arrest is a signficant development but by no means the last.
“This is a victory, but the battle against against terrorism and the fight for freedom will not end tonight.” – Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel agrees with his French counterpart.
“We want to know the truth about what happened” Georges Salines, whose daughter Lola lost her life at Bataclan.
Saturday 20 March
“Salah Abdeslam is a key actor in the attacks in Paris and St Denis (Stade de France). He had a central role in the make-up of the commandos and in the logistical planning of the 13 November attacks,” – Francois Molins, French public prosecutor gives a press conference responding to the news of Abdeslam’s arrest.
“Other networks, other cells, other individuals in France and in Europe are getting organised to prepare new attacks. We must remain mobilised at a national as well as a European level.” – French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the terror threat remains very high.
“France has demanded his extradition. I can tell you that we will refuse extradition to France. We will first see whether the European arrest warrant is legal.” – Abdeslam’s lawyer, Sven Mary says his client will fight extradition.
“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,” – Interpol Secretary General, Jürgen Stock urges all INTERPOL member nations to tighten border security and share information with international counterparts.
Monday 21st March – Belgium’s security level maintained at 3, one below the maximum. This is despite concerns over possible revenge attacks.
“I think that Salah Abdeslam is of prime importance for this investigation. I would even say he is worth his weight in gold. He is collaborating. He is communicating. He is not maintaining his right to remain silent,” Sven Mary tells Belgian public broadcaster RTBF his client has value for the Paris investigation.
“We know that stopping one cell can push others into action.” Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon warns of the possibility of a revenge attack.
Tuesday 22nd March
And then, the unthinkable happened – once again.
Dozens of people are killed and injured in three coordinated rush-hour terrorist attacks across Brussels – at the departures terminal at the city’s huge international airport and at Maelbeek metro station a few hundred metres from the EU Institutions in the city centre.
Belgium’s security threat is raised to level 4 – the maximum.
“These attacks are blind, violent and cowardly. This is a day of tragedy, a black day. I would like to call on everyone to show calmness and solidarity.” – Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel finds his resolve tested to the extreme for the second time since Friday.
“Terrorism has hit Belgium,” said French President Francois Hollande only four months after 130 people died in a series of attacks in Paris, “but these people also have Europe in their sights, as well as all the people who live there.
“These attacks mark another low by the terrorists in the service of hatred and violence,” – European Council President Donald Tusk responds to news that death and destruction has been brought to his Brussels doorstep.
“The people of the United States offer their support and their solidarity to the people of Belgium. These are outrageous attacks against innocent people.” – US President Barack Obama interrupts his historic visit to Cuba to comment on the events half a world away.