POLICE hunting the on-the-run Paris attacker knew exactly where he was – but couldn’t raid his bolthole because it would BREAK THE LAW, a Belgian government minister claimed.
Europe’s most wanted man Salah Abdeslam slipped through the fingers of Belgium police despite them circling the Brussels district of Molenbeek to carry out hundreds of raids in the hunt for terrorists.
It has now been claimed they suspected where Abdeslam was just two days after the Paris massacres which killed 130 people, but were unable to storm the property because of a Belgian law restricting police searches.
The bizarre 1967 law bans searches from being carried out between 9pm and 5am – with exceptions for fires and obvious offences, according to Belgian newspaper Le Soir.
But the law does not specify regulations regarding terrorism offences.
Belgian police finally arrived at the property at 5pm the next day after obtaining a search warrant – only to find that Abdeslam had long fled.
Belgian police said it was too early to jump to conclusions over how Europe’s most wanted and dangerous man evaded the police glare.
But the blunder was revealed by Belgian minister of justice Koen Geens during an interview with a Flemish television channel.
Mr Geens said: “The public enemy number one was apparently in a property in Molenbeek two days after the Paris attacks.
“His location was known to intelligence services.”
The apparent mistake will put Belgian police under the spotlight once again – whose handling of homegrown extremism has already been questioned after it emerged a number of Belgian Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis were involved in the Paris attacks.