• France's news in English
Paris Terror Attacks
Abdeslam charged with 'terrorist murder'
An ambulance believed to be transporting top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam leaves the building of the Federal Police in Brussels, on Saturday. Photo: John Thys / AFP

Abdeslam charged with 'terrorist murder'

AFP · 19 Mar 2016, 18:04

Published: 19 Mar 2016 09:38 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2016 18:04 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

However, Abdeslam will fight his extradition to France from Belgium where he was formally charged on Saturday with "terrorist murder" after his dramatic capture in central Brussels.

French President Francois Hollande said shortly after Abdeslam's arrest on Friday that he wanted to see him transferred to France as quickly as possible to face prosecution for the deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

"I can already tell you that we will oppose his extradition," Abdeslam's lawyer Sven Mary told reporters at federal police headquarters in Brussels.

Legal experts said this could delay but not prevent his handover to the French authorities on a European Arrest Warrant which the European Union introduced specifically to speed up extradition cases.

An investigating judge formally charged Abdeslam with "participation in terrorist murder and participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation," a prosecutors statement said.

Abdeslam's arrest in the gritty Molenbeek neighbourhood was hailed by European and US leaders, while French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said it dealt a "major blow" to IS jihadists operating in Europe.

Abdeslam, 26, and four other suspects were arrested on Friday in the gritty Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek.

During the raid, he was lightly wounded in the leg, prosecutors said.

Also arrested was a man known by the fake name Amine Choukri, who in addition used a false Syrian name Monir Ahmed Alaaj.

Three members of a family which sheltered Abdeslam in Molenbeek, where he lived and ran a bar with his brother Brahim, were also detained.

Brahim Abdeslam blew himself up during the Paris attacks and was buried discreetly on Thursday in a Brussels cemetery.

The arrests leave only one known suspect still on the run, Mohamed Abrini, who was filmed with Abdeslam two days before the attacks at a petrol station on a motorway close to Paris.

Story continues below…

Former small-time criminal Abdeslam is believed to be the last surviving member of the 10-man jihadist team that carried out attacks on the Bataclan rock venue, restaurants, bars and the Stade de France stadium.

He apparently fled by car to his hometown Brussels the day after the rampage, having refused to blow himself up, and is believed to have spent much if not all of the subsequent four months in the city.

Prosecutors said special forces raided a house in Molenbeek on Friday because of evidence found in an operation in Brussels on Tuesday, in which a Paris-linked suspect died in a gun battle with police and two other people

One of Abdeslam's fingerprints was found at the scene of Tuesday's raid, sparking the huge manhunt that led to his capture.

A witness told AFP the operation began at around 1530 GMT when dozens of police cars swooped into the run-down Molenbeek neighbourhood.

"I heard about three or four shots fired, but they were muffled, as if taking place indoors," said Karim, a charity employee who lives in the largely Muslim Molenbeek.

Footage on Belgian media appeared to show a white-hooded Abdeslam being dragged to a waiting police car by armed special forces officers.

Belgium has been at the centre of the investigation into the Paris attacks almost from day one, and has been accused of blunders that let the perpetrators slip under the radar.

"Either Salah Abdeslam is very clever, or the Belgian services are stupid, which is more likely," said French lawmaker Alain Marsaud, a member of an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into possible security failings over the November attacks.

With Belgium having arrested a series of people over links with Abdeslam, Hollande said many more were involved in the Paris attacks than originally believed.

Investigators believe Abdeslam rented rooms in the Paris area to be used by the attackers and also hired one of the cars in which he drove the suicide bombers to the Stade de France.

He was then supposed to blow himself up but apparently backed out, and an explosives-filled suicide vest was later found in Paris in an area where mobile phone signals indicated he had been.

Police believe he fled across the border the next morning. Several people have been arrested on suspicion of helping him and his fingerprints were found in December at different Brussels apartments.

The ringleader of the attacks, IS member Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and attacker Bilal Hadfi, both dead, also had links to Molenbeek, a largely immigrant district that has been a hotbed of Islamist violence for decades.

Abdeslam and his brother, who blew himself up during the Paris assault, had run a bar in the area until it was shut down by the authorities a few weeks before the attacks.

Belgian authorities have meanwhile identified the man killed in the raid on Tuesday linked to Abdeslam as Algerian national Mohamed Belkaid, 35, who was living illegally in Belgium.

He was reportedly on a list of IS fighters leaked last week as a volunteer to commit a suicide bomb attack.

Prosecutors also said he was wanted in connection with the November attacks.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Paris: 'Flying' water taxis to be tested on River Seine
Photo: SeaBubbles

An in Seine idea surely? But tests will go ahead.

France joins fight for rich pickings from post-Brexit UK
Photo: AFP/DcnH/Flickr

France tries to woo EU's bank regulator and other agencies.

How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available