Nineteen police raids in Brussels have resulted in 16 arrests, however fugitive Salah Abdeslam the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks "was not intercepted" during these raids, the Federal prosecutor confirmed in a press conference.
Details of the police operation were revealed in a statement by public prosecutor Eric Van Der Spyt. He said: "The Brussels prosecutor and anti-terror prosecution executed 19 raids. These raids took place in St. Jan Molinbeek, Anderlicht, Jette, Schaarbeek, Saint Lambrechts-Woluwe and Vorst. Also three house raids took place in Charleroi. 16 people were taken into custody.
"During a raid in a snack bar in Molinbeek a car was driven at police. Police opened fire. The car was able to escape but was later stopped ... The wounded driver was arrested.
"For the time being we cannot confirm whether there is an relation between the investigation and the person arrested. It is impossible to say whether these arrests are related to the investigation.No arms or explosives are found. Other raids were without incident.
"Salah Abdeslam was not intercepted during these raids. He is not among the persons arrested," he reiterated. "There will have to be further actions on Sunday evening. The investigations will continue. In the interests of the ongoing investigation we cannot give you more information at this time. The police would like to thank the media and social media users for honouring the request not to publish details of the raids."
Earlier local media reported that Isis terrorist Salah Abdelslam had evaded police in Brussels for a second time. One of the gunmen involved in the Paris attacks of 13 November, that left 130 people dead and hundreds injured, has been on the run from police ever since.
The DH Net.be news website claimed that Abdelslam was spotted by Belgian police in the city of Liege around 7.30pm in a BMW, but managed to evade officers. He then headed in the direction of Germany on the E40 motorway. Police attempted to intercept him at Barchon but again failed to apprehend him.
The Federal prosecutor did not comment on claims that Salah Abdeslam evaded arrest and refused to take questions from assembled press.
Europe's most wanted man Abdeslam has been the subject of an international manhunt since the attacks, with 2,000 officers tasked with finding him. Abdeslam, is believed to have rented the two cars used by terrorists in the attacks, driving his brother Ibrahim and a French shooter to four restaurants in the Canal Saint Martin area of Paris where they murdered dozens of people.
After being stopped by police in his car on the Brussels border, he was allowed to go after they checked his ID. They were stopped just hours after he had abandoned the rented car containing three Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles on the outskirts of the French capital.
While he had been identified as a person of interest, that information had not been immediately transmitted to those responsible for conducting the border checks. The officers apparently let him go after checking his ID, BBC news reported.
Police raids on the city on 22 November night resulted in streets being cordoned off, local restaurants being evacuated and guests at the Radisson Blue Hotel kept under armed guard following the attacks on hotel in Mali that left 26 dead. Police requests to the public to maintain silence about the raids on social media in an effort not to disclose details of the raids to the terrorists, prompted an imaginative reaction on Twitter as people posted pictures of cats with the hashtag BrusselsLockdown.
The Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the highest state of terror alert remains. Schools and all underground public transport will remain closed, but buses & above-ground trams will run on Monday.