Explosions rang out Monday during a massive police operation in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek as investigators searched for a suspect in the Paris massacre, but they said they failed to make any arrests.
Police were seeking the suspected attacker Salah Abdeslam, 26, and any possible associates. Dozens of masked and heavily armed security officials had sealed off the area and neighbors were told to stay out of harm’s way. Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans said the operation ended after more than three hours.
One of the suspect’s brothers, Brahim Abdeslam, killed himself in Friday’s string of attacks. Another brother, Mohammad, was released after being detained over the weekend, according to his attorney. She told the RTL network her client “hadn’t made the same life choices.”
In all, five of the seven people who were detained over the weekend because of possible links to the massacre have been released, according to the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office. Two others have been charged with being part of a terror group and links to a terror attack, the office said in a statement.
Police had arrested three suspects in the impoverished Brussels neighborhood on Saturday.
Investigators identified a Belgian jihadist believed to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria as the suspected mastermind behind Friday’s attacks that killed at least 129 people.
A French official told The Associated Press that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old from Molenbeek, was also believed to have ties to the thwarted attack on a Paris-bound high-speed train this past August, as well as a failed plot to attack a Paris-area church. He is reportedly the child of Moroccan immigrants.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Abaaoud was the head of a terror cell based in Verviers, Belgium that was broken up by police this past January. However, he appears to have escaped the clutches of the authorities and made his way to Syria.
Salah Abdeslam had been stopped at the French border with Belgium early Saturday, hours after the attacks, The Associated Press reported.
Three French police officials and a top French security official told the news agency that border officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Bataclan, where 89 concert-goers were murdered by terrorists.
Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car, a Belgian-registered Seat Leon known to have been used in the attacks, in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb, another French police official said.
France launched a series of airstrikes targeting the Syrian city of Raqqa, its biggest campaign in months. Sunday’s airstrikes killed an unspecified number of ISIS fighters but did not kill any civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The strikes were a central topic at the G20 summit in southern Turkey Monday. Russian president Vladimir Putin said other nations now realize that a joint plan of action represents the only effective means of fighting terror. But Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his nation would not change plans to end its anti-ISIS fight.
Read more: Fox News