Abdeslam abandoned plans to be Paris suicide bomber, prosecutor says
Terror suspect Salah Abdeslam planned to blow himself up outside France’s national stadium during last year’s deadly attacks in Paris but backed out at the last minute, prosecutors said Saturday.
Abdeslam was arrested Friday in a police raid in Brussels and questioned Saturday by Belgian authorities.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters in Paris that Abdeslam told Belgian investigators that he abandoned his suicide vest the night of Nov. 13 after he drove other attackers to Paris for the attacks.
Molins did not say whether Abdeslam explained his reasoning for abandoning the attack. In all, 130 people were killed at several venues around Paris on that night.
Two of the suicide attackers detonated vests loaded with explosives outside the stadium during a soccer match in front of a large crowd that included French president Francois Hollande.
A third suicide attacker blew himself up at a nearby McDonald’s.
After being on the run for four months, Abdeslam, 26, was shot in the leg and captured Friday along with a suspected accomplice in a massive Belgian police raid in Brussels. Three others were also detained, but two were released on Saturday.
Belgian authorities on Saturday officially charged Abdeslam and his alleged cohort, who was using two aliases, “with participation in terrorist murder” and in the activities of a terrorist organization.
“Probably he had contacts with other men to help him,” Molenbeek Mayor Francoise Schepmans told The Associated Press. “But we have to wait. What’s important now is that Salah Abdeslam has been arrested.”
Meanwhile, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel warned that “the fight is not over” and his government announced the nation’s terrorism alert level would remain unchanged at 3 on a 4-point scale.
After the hours-long police raid on Friday, life sought to recapture a semblance of normality in Molenbeek on Saturday.
A mother wearing a dark headscarf with a son in pink soccer cleats picked their way along the sidewalk past camera crews staked out in front of the house where Abdeslam was arrested. Its ground-floor windows were boarded up. A man in a nearby cafe drank coffee and read a French-language newspaper with the front-page headline: “Salah arrested. Mission accomplished.”