Belgium’s move to lower the terror threat level to 3 in the Brussels-Capital Region has led to speculation that Europe’s most wanted fugitive and terror suspect Salah Abdeslam may be on his way to Syria, Flandersnews reports.
However, speaking on VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’, the Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens (Flemish Christian democrat) said that he is “completely unaware” of whether Abdeslam is abroad.
The justice minister also refused to comment on why the terror threat level in the capital had been reduced. All Geens would say is that OCAD (the body that analyses the level of threat from terrorism) makes regular evaluations of the situation based on information it receives from the security services.
“The imminent threat appears to have subsided. However, we remain in a heightened state of vigilance. We should not think that the treat has gone. It is just that the threat is no longer imminent,” he said
The heightened state of vigilance remains until the fugitive terror suspect Salah Abdeslam is caught.
Speaking earlier this week in VRT television’s current affairs programme ‘De afspraak’, the former Head of OCAD Luc Verheyden said they are three possible scenarios: Salah Abdeslam is caught, there will be an attack in Brussels or he is abroad.
As the first two scenarios put forward by Verheyden have yet to transpire, speculation is growing as to whether Salah Abdeslam is on his way to Syria.
“We are not aware that he is. It is often easy to compare the threat level with the progress that has been made in an investigation. This is just one of many factors, there are a number of other factors that help determine whether the threat level is raised or lowered”, Geens told listeners.
He remained tight-lipped about Thursday’s raids in Verviers (Liège province) and Namur.