FUGITIVE, turn to page 3
PARIS (AP) — Hours after the synchronized attacks that terrorized Paris, French police questioned and released the suspect who is now the focus of an international manhunt, officials told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Saleh Abdeslam, 26, was one of three men in a getaway car, headed for France's border with Belgium, when police pulled them over after daybreak Saturday. The French president had already announced new border controls to prevent the perpetrators from escaping. Hours had passed since investigators identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage-takers to the Paris theater where almost three-quarters of the 189 victims were killed.
FUGITIVE, turn to page 3 It's not clear why the local French police, known as gendarmes, didn't take Abdeslam into custody. They checked his identification, but it's not known whether they had been informed of his apparent connection to the attacks. 'There was no lookout notice at the time of the traffic stop,' a French police official told the AP.
The day before the attacks, senior Iraqi intelligence officials warned France and other members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State that assaults by the militant group could be imminent, according to a dispatch obtained by the AP.
The dispatch did not say where or when the attacks might take place. But Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP that they also shared specific details with French authorities before the attack — including the size of a sleeper cell of militants they said was directing attackers sent back to France from Islamic State's de-facto capital in Raqqa, Syria.
These additional details were not corroborated by French or Western security officals. But a U.S. official said Sunday that investigators now believe the attackers' evident weaponry skills suggest they got advance training somewhere.
Nearly all the the French, Iraqi and U.S. officials providing information for this story spoke on condition of anonymity because they lack authorization to share details publicly.
By Sunday night, French authorities put out a public appeal for help locating Abdeslam, showing his mug shot and warning that he is too dangerous to be confronted. One of his brothers had detonated a suicide vest down the street from the theater; another was ultimately detained in Belgium, officials said. The two other men who drove across the border with Abdeslam were arrested. Belgian Interior Minister Jan Jambon told the AP that suspects detained in Molenbeek had been stopped in the town of Cambrai, France, 'in a regular roadside check' but that police had had no suspicion about them at the time and they were let go quickly.
Hours later, Belgian police, working on a request from the French, detained three men in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels.