Abdeslam ‘backed out of blowing himself up’
The Brussels suburb of Molenbeek. Source: Flickr
Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in November’s Paris attacks, has told police he intended to blow himself up at the Stade de France in the coordinated November attacks but backed out at the last minute.
François Molins, the French public prosecutor, confirmed Abdeslam’s involvement but said the alleged confession should be double-checked. Abdeslam has been charged with terrorism offences by the Belgian authorities after being arrested in the now-notorious Brussels suburb of Molenbeek on Friday. Abdeslam would fight his extradition to France but was “collaborating” with Belgian police, his lawyer said.
Alexandre Plantevin, former anti-terror judge, told BFMTV it was “not for Abdeslam to decide” whether he would be extradited and at some point “he will appear before a French judge”.
Molins questioned Abdeslam’s claim, asking why he was in the 18th arrondissement of Paris on November 13 after taking three other attackers to the stadium. Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the Paris strikes, including a bombing in the 18th arrondissement, which never happened. Three suicide bombers set off explosive vests outside the Stade de France after being denied entry. President François Hollande was inside the ground watching France play Germany in a friendly. The authorities believe Abdeslam drove the others to the stadium in a car that was later found abandoned. An explosive belt thought to have been worn by Abdeslam was later discovered in a bin.
“Salah Abdeslam is a key actor in the attacks in Paris and St Denis [for the Stade de France attack]. He had a central role in the make-up of the commandos and in the logistical planning of the November 13 attacks,” Molins told the media. He also arranged for terror volunteers to reach Western Europe through the Balkans, Molins claimed. Abdeslam allegedly rented at least two vehicles used in the attacks and supplied 12 remote detonators and large quantities of peroxide used to make the bombs.
Molins praised the “exemplary” cooperation between French and Belgian investigators and magistrates. He expressed “an immense relief for all especially the families of the victims of the attacks, with whom my thoughts are at this moment”.
The four-month international manhunt ended when Abdeslam was found 500 metres from where he grew up. He was shot in the leg trying to flee.
It is understood that Belgian and French intelligence found his hideout after bugging phone conversations at the funeral of Brahim Abdeslam, Salah’s brother, who blew himself up in Paris.
One mourner’s comments are thought to have provided information which allowed the police to locate Abdeslam in Molenbeek. While watching the suspected flat, a “large order” of pizzas to the property led police to believe the terror suspect and his accomplices were present and a team of special forces was deployed. Abdeslam is thought to be the only surviving member of the 10-strong team who attacked Paris.
France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls welcomed Abdeslam’s arrest but added that the terror threat remained “as high as, if not higher than, we had before 13 November”. He said: “Other networks, other cells, other individuals in France and in Europe are getting organised to prepare new attacks. We must remain mobilised at a national as well as European level.”