Main suspect in foiled helicopter prison break arrested: report

A SWAT team arrested 22-year-old Rachid el M. in Amsterdam West on Wednesday morning. He is one of the main suspects in a foiled attempt to break criminal Benaouf A. out of the prison in Roermond using a hijacked helicopter in October last year, Het Parool reports.

El Em. is one of a handful of suspects who managed to escape after the attempted prison break. The police finally tracked him down in his brother's home in Amsterdam West.

One of the arrested suspects - a pilot flown in from Colombia who was to hijack the helicopter - named Rachid el M. as one of the leaders of this operation, according to Het Parool. He is the only suspect to give an extensive statement so far. According to the pilot, Rachid el M. coordinated the attempted prison break with previously arrested 27-year-old Houssain el M.

Houssain el Em. was the one to book the helicopter. The helicopter rental company did not trust the booking and informed the police about it, according to the newspaper. The initial booked flight was postponed from October 4th to October 11th, under the ruse that the helicopter was broken. On October 11th, the police took over the helicopter rental company and stood ready to arrest the suspects. After wild car chases, several suspects were arrested and one suspect was shot dead. Rashid el M. and a number of other suspects managed to escape. Several of them have been arrested since. 

Benaouf A. is considered a leader in the Amsterdam gang world. He is currently serving a 12 year prison sentence for involvement in the assassination of another Amsterdam criminal, Najab Boubouh, in October 2012. In December of that year, A. was targeted in an assassination attempt in Amsterdam's Staatsliedenbuurt. He survived, but two others did not. The murder of Bouhbouh and the Staatsliedenbuurt assassinations are considered the start of the Amsterdam gang war, which in the years since resulted in the deaths of dozens of Amsterdam criminals and a handful of innocent bystanders. 

A. was transferred to the high security prison in Vught after this attempted escape.