The moment Salah Abdeslam made an ill-judged, last-minute attempt to evade capture as security forces surrounded his hideout in the Brussels's district of Molenbeek has been captured on camera. The suspected Paris attacker is seen scrambling out of the main door of a residential block in the Belgian capital and sprinting for freedom on the pavement in footage recorded from a nearby building.
It was a short-lived escape. A large number of heavily armed Belgian police, backed by armoured vehicles had been deployed in the area. As he went out in the street wearing a white hoodie and baseball hat, Abdeslam swung left and started running with his back to an assault team that was preparing to storm the premises.
He was quickly shot to a leg and arrested. Moments later, his alleged accomplice identified as Monir Ahmed Alaaj, was also held.
The footage obtained by French broadcaster iTele, reinforced the perception of Abdeslam as a chicken-hearted terrorist.
The 26-year-old French citizen, a suspect in the 13 November coordinated series of shootings and bombings that killed 130 people in Paris, is believed to have developed cold feet during the attacks, dumping his suicide vest and fleeing. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said that after the arrest Abdeslam told Belgian detectives he "wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France" but backed out at the last minute.
He called two friends, Mohamed Amri and Hamza Attou, who told police they picked him up in the French capital and drove him back to Brussels, shocked and in tears. A four-month international manhunt ended on 18 March as he was captured only 500m from his home.
Belgian authorities said they found a large number of weapons at addresses linked to the former fugitive who told them he planned new attacks in Brussels. However, he was unarmed as he made for the door after his hideaway flat was located. Police suggested he might have attempted to commit suicide by allowing officers to shoot at him.
"When someone comes out running toward the police, we have to ask ourselves some questions. What did he have in mind? What was he going to do? Either he wanted to get killed by the police, or he wanted to blow himself up near the police," the head of Belgium's special federal police unit, Roland Pacolet, told broadcaster RTL. Abdeslam has been charged with "terrorist murder" and is facing extradition to France. He is currently detained at a high-security facility near the city of Bruges.