LIÈGE (BELGIUM) / AACHEN (GERMANY) —
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.
This is the center of Liège, a town in Belgium that is literally half an hour’s drive from the German border. Counter terrorism units were active in this town a couple of days ago apparently chasing tips that Saleh Abdesalam was spotted here.
Even now we’ve been able to spot military vehicles, men in military uniforms, fully armed, and also local police carrying the kind of automatic weapons that we are told are not normally seen here. Some people fear Abdesalam may be trying to slip into Germany or maybe he has already done so. Now, my car is parked very close. I’m going to try to see how difficult it is to drive from here to Germany without getting stopped or caught.
We have to remember that this is a part of Europe where the idea of Schengen’s free travel zone is still widely applicable. Although France, after the attacks, has instituted strict border controls.
We’re now on the highway that will take us straight to Germany. From here to the border it's half an hour or less.
We are literally meters from the border, we’re about to cross the border but there was no sign that we had to stop anywhere for border checks. As the GPS is telling you, we are crossing the border right now. I am zooming to show that we’re crossing the border right now. Nobody asked us for our passports or any kind of checks.
This is it. I’ve just crossed from Belgium into Germany without even having to slow down.
A German security officer told VOA that they have intensified border security since the attacks. Residents around here also said that they have seen additional border checks, but randomly.
I was able to drive to Belgium from Germany twice during the last 24 hours, and back, and I was not stopped even once.