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TERRORISM

Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam justifies 2015 killings

The suspected sole surviving gunman from 2015 attacks in Paris has come close to admitting his role in the carnage in a rare statement to investigators in which he justified the killings, reports said on Friday.

Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam justifies 2015 killings
Photo: French/Belgian police
Salah Abdeslam, in custody in France over the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead, has refused to cooperate with French judges ever since his arrest five months after the atrocities.
   
But on Thursday he recorded a statement in which he parroted the propaganda of Islamist extremist groups such as Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a sports stadium and bars in the French capital. 
 
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Pot-smoking delinquent to key Paris attacks suspect: The story of Salah AbdeslamPhoto: AFP

“We don't attack you because you eat pork, you drink wine or you listen to music, but Muslims defend themselves against those people who attack us,” Abdeslam said, according to the RTL and France Inter radio stations.
   
They quoted a lawyer, Jean Reinhart, who is representing the victims of the attacks and has access to the case files.
   
“Put your anger to one side and think about it a few minutes,” Abdeslam said in comments addressed to the dead and injured. 
 
“You are suffering from the mistakes made by your leaders.”
   
In April, a Belgian court sentenced Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan origin, to 20 years in prison over a gun battle with police in his hometown of Brussels where he was arrested in March 2016.
   
At the opening of his trial, Abdeslam defied his judges, claiming to place his “trust in Allah and that is all”.
   
Abdeslam was a pot-smoking delinquent in the crime-ridden district of Molenbeek in Brussels until he became radicalised by Islamic State propaganda around his 25th birthday in 2014, investigators believe.
 
His Belgian lawyer revealed in 2016 that he had never read the Koran and said he had “the intelligence of an empty ashtray.”
   
He has been held in solitary confinement in France ahead of a trial which is expected in 2019.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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