Report: Abdeslam downplays role, points finger at Paris accomplices

Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested in Brussels for his suspected involvement in the November terrorist attacks in Paris, has downplayed his role in the attacks during questioning, Le Monde newspaper reported Saturday.

The report said that he identified the planner of the attacks as Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a police raid a few days after the attacks.

"It is Abaaoud. I know that from my brother Brahim. He was the one who told me that Abaaoud was the one in charge," the newspaper quoted Abdeslam as saying, citing police transcripts.

The public prosecutor in Brussels refused to confirm the report when asked.

According to Le Monde, Abdeslam told investigators during a two-hour interrogation that he had met Abaaoud just once, two days before the night of coordinated blasts and gun attacks in the French capital.

The report claims to shed new light on the role of Abdeslam - who is thought to be the only surviving member of the terrorist gang that carried out the violence in Paris - after the Belgian justice minister said Abdeslam was no longer cooperating with investigators following Monday's triple bombing attack in Brussels.

The suspect was arrested in Brussels on the afternoon of March 18, four days before terrorist attacks on the Belgian capital's international airport and Maelbeek underground railway station killed at least 31 people.

Abdeslam reportedly claims to have been responsible for the logistical planning of the Paris attacks. "I rented the cars and hotels in preparation for the attacks," the 26-year-old was quoted as saying.

He said that his brother, Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up in front of a restaurant on November 13, 2015, had provided him with funds. "Every time I had to pay for something in order to plan these assaults, the money came from Brahim," he said, according to Le Monde.

Abdeslam told prosecutors that he had intended to blow himself up at the Stade de France football stadium that night alongside three other accomplices but backed out at the last minute.

He remains in Belgian custody pending his handover to France, which is seeking to prosecute him for the Paris attacks.

Last update: Sat, 26/03/2016 - 13:02

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