Abdeslam cooperates in Paris attacks inquiry, opposes extradition

Salah Abdeslam, the Frenchman arrested for his alleged role in last year's terrorist attacks in Paris, is cooperating with authorities in Belgium but will oppose extradition to France, the Belga news agency reported Saturday.

The 26-year-old admits to having been in Paris on November 13, 2015, the night of the coordinated bombings and gun attacks on restaurants, bars, the Stade de France stadium and the Bataclan concert hall that left 130 people dead, the report added, citing his lawyer Sven Mary.

Abdeslam, who became one of Europe's most wanted criminals after fleeing the French capital in the wake of the attacks, was arrested in Belgium on Friday.

He was taken into custody with four other people, including three members of the family who was hosting him in Molenbeek, the Brussels neighbourhood where Abdeslam grew up and lived before the November attacks.

He was hiding in an apartment owned by a friend's mother, broadcaster RTBF reported.

The 26-year-old's leg was slightly injured in the raid, after which he was taken to a hospital in Brussels. He was discharged from hospital the following day.

"Salah Abdeslam is directly linked to the preparation, the organization and, alas, the perpetration of the [Paris] attacks," French President Francois Hollande said in Brussels on Friday, adding that he expects French authorities to ask Belgium for his extradition.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel signaled the government's willingness to extradite Abdeslam but said legal hurdles may prevent French authorities from having him in custody for several weeks.

Following the arrest, the terrorist threat level in Brussels remained unchanged at its second-highest level.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve hailed the arrest as a victory in the European fight against terrorism.

Abdeslam is believed to have joined his brother Brahim in targeting restaurants and bars during the Paris attacks, but his exact role in the violence has never been publicly disclosed. It is believed that at the very least he offered logistical support to the attackers.

A manhunt for Abdeslam had been under way since mid-November, after he was brought back from Paris to Belgium by two acquaintances following the attacks.

There had been media reports that he may have escaped to Syria - a stronghold of the Islamic State extremist group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

Last update: Sat, 19/03/2016 - 17:41
Author: 

More from Europe

Mattarella looking to usher in functioning Italian government quickly

Following crisis talks in Rome on Saturday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said he will be taking steps soon to...

Austria to veto further EU accession talks with Turkey

Austria will block the continuation of EU talks with Ankara over Turkey's future membership in the bloc, Austrian...

Diplomats call for ceasefire in Aleppo at Paris meet

Foreign ministry officials from the West and the Middle East meeting in Paris Saturday for talks on Syria have...

French government seeks to extend state of emergency to July 2017

The French government said Saturday it would ask parliament to approve an extension to the country's state of...

No agreement reached between Russia, Ukraine on gas deliveries

Russian and Ukrainian officials failed to reach an agreement on gas deliveries this winter in a first round of EU-...