Hollande to meet Paris attack victims after suspect captured

Francois Hollande will be quizzed on his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group during the meeting.
Francois Hollande will be quizzed on his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group during the meeting.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande on Monday (March 21) was set to hold his first formal meeting with victims of the Nov 13 attacks in Paris, three days after Belgian police captured key suspect Saleh Abdeslam.

Georges Salines, the head of one victims' group, 13 Novembre: Fraternite et Verite (November 13: Fraternity and Truth), said Hollande would be quizzed on his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group, which claimed the assault.

"What is being done to prevent future attacks? What are France's international goals, what is being done to eliminate ISIS?," asked Salines, whose daughter was among those killed.

Hollande's office on Saturday announced the long-delayed meeting with five victims' associations formed after the attacks that claimed 130 lives and injured hundreds.

Hollande has met with victims previously, at ceremonies, but this is the first formal meeting.

A Hollande aide said 26-year-old Abdeslam's dramatic capture in a Brussels raid on Friday "made the meeting all the more timely." Salines said the Elysee Palace had turned down several requests for a meeting.

"More spontaneity would have been appreciated," he said, ironically.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French citizen, is thought to be the last surviving member of the 10-man terrorist team that carried out the Paris attacks.

Victims' groups said they were relieved he was captured alive to face justice.

Sven Mary, a lawyer for Abdeslam, launched a legal fight on Sunday to block his extradition to France.

Mary also said his client would lodge a legal complaint against a French prosecutor who divulged the details of the first interrogation with the suspect to journalists on Saturday.

"I don't understand why a prosecutor in Paris has to communicate at this stage on an investigation in Belgium," Mary told the newspaper Le Soir on Sunday.

Abdeslam "is worth gold. He is collaborating, he's communicating, he is not using his right to remain silent," Mary said.

Paris prosector Francois Molins on Saturday told reporters Abdeslam had played a "central role" in planning the attacks at the Bataclan concert hall, national stadium and several bars and restaurants.

Molins said Abdeslam had told interrogators he had wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France before changing his mind.

An explosives-filled vest was later found in southern Paris in an area where he had been, according to mobile phone signals.