The most wanted fugitive from November’s Paris attacks has been “caught alive” after being wounded in a Brussels shootout, say police.
The Belgian asylum minister Theo Francken declared, “We got him”, referring to 26-year-old Salah Abdeslam, Europe’s most wanted man.
Abdeslam suffered leg injuries before being arrested, during a major police operation in the Molenbeek suburb.
At least 10 shots were heard, grenades launched and police helicopters hovered overhead, while fire engines waited in the street.
Footage showed masked, black-clad security forces training their weapons towards upper windows of an apartment block.
White smoke could be seen rising above the building, as police with snarling dogs drove crowds in the streets back away from the scene.
Abdeslam was one of two men arrested in the raid which came after a tip-off, police said.
About three hours later, two more explosions were heard in the area and a third man – who remained holed up – was arrested, media reported.
French president Francois Hollande and Belgian PM Charles Michel left a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on migration amid news of the raid.
The shootout comes after Belgian authorities said that fingerprints in a Brussels apartment raided earlier this week belonged to Abdeslam.
A man shot dead in that raid is believed to have been an accomplice of Abdeslam, Belgian prosecutors said on Friday.
Sky’s foreign affairs editor Sam Kiley said that Abdeslam could prove to be “a goldmine of intelligence”.
Survivors of the attack at the Bataclan venue in Paris reacted to news of the arrest this evening.
Lydia Berkennou said: “I don’t know why, but deep down in my heart, I knew one of them was him.
“I knew because I didn’t think he would’ve managed to go back to Syria … I knew he was hiding somewhere.”
Back in November it was reported that Abdeslam had reportedly returned to Brussels with a suicide vest.
A police source had told The Sunday Times of fears “there is a walking bomb” in the Belgian capital.
The source said Abdeslam may have become “trapped and desperate” since fleeing the bloodshed which killed 130 people.
One of their friends told a French documentary he heard one of the brothers telling the other that he was “not going” without money.
“The other one said: ‘No, you’re going!’
“He said to him: ‘If I don’t have any dosh, I’m not budging. Without dosh I’m not going’,” the friend told the documentary.
It is unclear whether they were fighting about going to Paris.
Brahim, 31, eventually blew himself up outside a cafe, injuring 15 people, during the co-ordinated attacks.
The women can be seen running for safety after Abdeslam’s gun does not go off.
Terror expert Dr David Lowe told Sky News: “These people are not working on their own – we are looking at terror cells in operations
“You have to be very very careful before you make the move … you want to gather as much evidence as possible.
“We’re talking about people who are quite willing to use firearms or explosive devices so … it’s a dangerous situation to have.”