THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – A Belgian gangster dubbed “The Eel” for his skill at slipping away from Belgian prison authorities was caught in the Netherlands two days after his latest jailbreak, police said Wednesday.

Nordin Benallal – reportedly making his fourth escape from prison – took guards hostage in Ittre, Belgium, at gunpoint Sunday after his getaway helicopter crashed. He was caught Tuesday after holding up a motorcycle shop in the Netherlands, police said.

Benallal, 27, and another suspect in the attempted robbery are in custody in The Hague, police spokeswoman Tessel Horsman told NOS news.

It was not the first time the man dubbed “De Paling” – “The Eel” – by Dutch press had staged a successful prison break. Belgian news reports said it was his fourth escape.

This time, an accomplice forced a helicopter to land in the prison yard of one of Belgium’s most secure, modern prisons during evening exercise time. That plan went awry when other convicts attempted to jump on and the aircraft crashed, injuring the pilot and several prisoners.

But Benallal and the accomplice managed to escape by taking two guards hostage at gunpoint and walking out the main entrance, then stealing a car.

After crossing into the Netherlands, he and another man tried to rob a motorcycle store, police said. The other suspect has not been identified.

“They fled on a stolen motorbike and the police chased them,” Horsman said.

They were forced to ditch the cycle and took off on foot before being caught by police.

He and another suspect are to appear before a judge Friday on the attempted robbery charge, and only then will a Belgian extradition request be considered, police spokeswoman Chantal Marges said.

In 2004, after being sentenced to 27 years in prison for a series of violent carjackings and house break-ins, Benallal he escaped two months later when his friends threw a rope ladder over the prison wall.

A few days later, he shot and wounded two police officers trying to capture him, earning him another 12 years in prison.

The latest prison break triggered calls for tighter security at Belgian jails, with the country’s law enforcement embarrassed by a series of recent escapes.

In April, two men hijacked a helicopter at gunpoint and forced the pilot to pluck a prisoner from exercise yard in a prison outside Liege. He was re-arrested in Italy.

Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal remains on the run after escaping house arrest last year the day before she was due to be sentenced on terrorism charges. Turkey had sought her extradition in connection with the killing of a businessman.

In August 2006, 28 convicts overpowered guards and escaped from a prison in northern Belgium. Most remain at large.

Belgium’s most notorious criminal, child killer Marc Dutroux, overpowered a guard and stole his gun while being transferred to court in 1998. He was caught a few hours later, but his escape forced the resignations of the justice and interior ministers. He is now at Ittre.


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