• France's news in English
Salah Abdeslam: the pot-smoking 'little moron' of Paris attacks
Photo: AFP

Salah Abdeslam: the pot-smoking 'little moron' of Paris attacks

AFP · 27 Apr 2016, 14:18

Published: 27 Apr 2016 14:18 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Salah Abdeslam, the key Paris attacks suspect who was transferred to France on Wednesday, showed little sign of religious fervour before the bloodshed and was known to enjoy a beer and a joint.

The 26-year-old French national of Moroccan origin, whose older brother Brahim blew himself up during the November 13th attacks on the French capital, was arrested in Brussels in March after four months on the run as Europe's most wanted man.

Although the attacks were claimed by Islamic State extremists, the two brothers were far from being religious fanatics and known to enjoy a drink and some pot in Les Beguines, the bar they ran in Molenbeek, an immigrant  neighbourhood of Brussels.

"I asked him if he had read the Koran, and he replied that he had researched it on the Internet," Abdeslam's Belgian lawyer Sven Mary told the French daily Liberation.

In a lengthy interview published on Wednesday, Mary described his client as a "little moron from Molenbeek, more a follower than a leader. "He has the intelligence of an empty ashtray. He is the perfect example of the GTA (Grand Theft Auto video game) generation who thinks he lives in a video game."

The Molenbeek bar was shut down two weeks before the Paris attacks after police said it was used "for the consumption of banned hallucinogenic substances".

A Molenbeek resident, who identified himself only as Youssef, told AFP last year the brothers were "friends of ours, big smokers, big drinkers, but not radicals".

Salah Abdeslam certainly knew radicals though, having come into contact with another Molenbeek resident, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, believed to have been the mastermind of the Paris attacks. What is more, Abdeslam's arrest on March 18th came just days before a series of coordinated attacks on the Belgian capital killed 32 people, with the police uncovering clear links between him and the three Brussels suicide bombers.

Petty crime, gambling

Abdeslam had previously worked as a technician for the Brussels tram network but was fired for skipping work in 2011. Around the same time he was arrested for robbery along with Abaaoud. He also developed a taste for casinos, gambling in the Dutch city of Breda in June 2014 and in Brussels last year.

But in 2015, he criss-crossed Europe, visiting Greece in August, then Austria and Hungary at a time when tens of thousands of migrants from Syria and Iraq were transiting Europe.

Prosecutors believe Abdeslam was in charge of logistics for the Paris attacks, which were planned in Brussels. He rented the cars that the Isis team used to travel to Paris, and booked the rooms where they stayed before launching the worst ever terror attacks on French soil.

His brother Brahim detonated his suicide vest in a bar in Paris on November 13, as at least eight other Isis attackers were shooting and blowing up 130 people who had been enjoying a Friday night out in the French capital.

Backed out of suicide?

Story continues below…

It is possible Salah Abdeslam drove three suicide bombers to the Stade de France stadium and he appears to have also been in central Paris at the time of the slaughter.

But after his arrest in Brussels, he said he had changed his mind about blowing himself up.

An explosives vest was found abandoned in a dustbin in a Paris suburb and although none of Abdeslam's DNA was found on it, mobile phone data put him in the area at the time.

Before police were alerted to his possible involvement, he had been stopped three times by officers in France as he fled back to  Belgium by car the day after the attacks. Two men with him in the vehicle, Hamza Attou and Mohammed Amri, are said to have been smoking marijuana but a policeman waved them on and Abdeslam was able to remain on the run for 126 days.

His Belgian lawyer, who has defended jihadist recruiters, paedophiles and mafia figures, admitted having reservations over representing Abdeslam, who was arrested just four days before the bloodshed in Belgium.

"There have been moments when I thought of giving up. If I had known about the Brussels attacks, maybe I would never have taken this case," Mary said, suggesting he might not stay on the case after Abdeslam's transfer to France.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Revealed: The ten most stolen cars in France
A Smart car in Paris. Photo: JR_Paris/Flickr

Thieves in France are getting a taste for luxury cars, it seems.

Analysis - France migrant crisis
Migrant crisis won't end with Calais 'Jungle' closure
All Photos: AFP

The Jungle camp may be being cleared but this won't be the end of the migrant crisis in France.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 'to sell their French chateau'
All photos: AFP

Want to live where Brangelina got married?

How Paris is rapidly becoming Europe's 'City of Innovation'
Photo: AFP

If you want to start a company then Paris is the place to do it, it seems.

'Jungle' clearance: Migrants begin to leave Calais camp
All photos: AFP

The "Jungle" clearance is underway.

France's 'Jungle' children arrive in UK
Authorities will start to clear the ‘Jungle’ migrant camp on Monday. Photo: Denis Charlet / AFP file picture

The first group of children from the French "Jungle" migrant camp with no connection to Britain have arrived in the country, the Home Office said Sunday, ahead of the camp's planned demolition.

French FM calls for end to Aleppo 'massacre'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says the international community cannot ‘come to a negotiation under the bombs’. Photo: Dominick Reuter / AFP file picture

France's foreign minister urged the international community to "do everything" to end the "massacre" in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Sunday after fighting resumed following a 72-hour truce declared by Damascus ally Russia.

Parisians cheer on protesting French police
French police officers on Saturday demonstrated for the fifth night in a row to protest mounting attacks on officers. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

Angry French police have taken to the streets for five nights in a row -- and Parisians have started to cheer them on, reviving scenes last seen following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015.

Scarlett Johansson turns popcorn girl in Paris
US actress Scarlett Johansson greets customers at the Yummy Pop gourmet popcorn shop in the Marais district of Paris. Photo: Benjamin Cremel / AFP

Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson swapped the red carpet for a turn behind the counter at her new popcorn shop in Paris on Saturday.

US couple donates huge art collection to Paris
Marlene (centre) and Spencer (right) are donating their collection ‘for the benefit of art lovers’. Photo: Thomas Samson / AFP

A Texan couple who discovered their love for art during a trip to Paris in the 1970s are to donate the multi-million dollar collection they have amassed since to the French capital.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
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
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
jobs available