Salah Abdeslam is putting himself in the slaughter seat with ISIS and French police. If ISIS doesn’t execute him before he talks to officials, Abdeslam is still left to the ‘mercy’ of the French justice system.
The 26-year-old, suspected of being the logistics chief behind the deadly Paris terror attacks in November, was captured earlier this month during a raid in Brussels.
Abdeslam has not spoken to investigators since the Belgian capital was hit by suicide bombs at the airport and a metro station last week. But this morning it emerged that Abdeslam now wants to ‘cooperate’ with French authorities.
The terror suspect had previously told interrogators he had intended to blow himself up at the Stade de France stadium in Paris but had backed out at the last minute.
In subsequent interviews, he has continually tried to blame the killing on other ISIS operatives, saying that he simply provided hire cars and other logistics.
There were fears before his capture that he may have tried to flee to Syria. But he may have been fearful of becoming a target himself in the ISIS heartland – having pulled out of his suicide mission.
His lawyer confirmed that his client now wanted to be extradited from Belgium to France.
‘He wants to cooperate with the French authorities,’ lawyer Cedric Moisse said, as a prosecutor was set to travel to the prison in the city of Bruges where Abdeslam has been held since March 18 for an extradition hearing.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said that Abdeslam had also been planning to target Brussels.
Another of his lawyers, Sven Mary, said last week that Abdeslam did not have prior knowledge of the March 22 attacks in the Belgian capital.
He has been linked to at least two of the bombers. Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at the metro, rented a flat in Brussels where Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found following a raid.
The second airport bomber, Najim Laachraoui, once drove to Hungary with Abdeslam.
There was high security this morning as police forces guarded the entrance of Brussels court ahead of the decision over whether to extradite Abdeslam.
Courts will also decide today whether three men suspected of being involved in the Brussels explosions will remain held in jail.
Yassine A., Mohamed B. and Aboubaker O. are being detained on charges of participating in terrorist group activities. They were among four people detained during Sunday searches in Brussels and the northern cities of Mechelen and Duffel.
Meanwhile, Belgian police have today carried out a fresh raid linked to a foiled French terror plot.
Soldiers and police could be seen searching through undergrowth near a busy motorway in Courtrai in northwestern Belgium, the latest in a series of raids since the Paris and Brussels terror attacks exposed a tangled web of cross-border jihadist cells.
The operation was linked to a new plot in France, in which the main suspect, Reda Kriket, was charged in France on Wednesday with membership of a terrorist organisation after police found an arsenal of weapons and explosives at his home.