Nabbed man was planning 'something' in Brussels

A combination of images taken from a video showing a piece of paper falling from Salah Abdeslam’s trousers as he was captured by police, in Molenbeek, near Brussels, on Friday.
A combination of images taken from a video showing a piece of paper falling from Salah Abdeslam’s trousers as he was captured by police, in Molenbeek, near Brussels, on Friday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Belgian minister says Paris suspect admitted this to investigators; heavy weapons seized

BRUSSELS • Salah Abdeslam, the man believed to be a direct participant in last November's Paris attacks and who was arrested last Friday, was planning to "restart something" in Brussels, Belgium's Foreign Minister said at the German Marshall Fund forum.

Mr Didier Reynders who is also Deputy Prime Minister, said Abdeslam had told investigators that "he was ready to restart something in Brussels".

"It is maybe the reality because, as I said, we have found a lot of weapons, a lot of heavy weapons, in the first investigations," Mr Reynders said.

"And we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels," he added.

He also said the number of people thought to have been directly or indirectly involved in the Nov 13 attacks continued to expand, both in Belgium and in France.

"We are sure that, for the moment, we have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but we are sure there are others," Mr Reynders said.

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It is maybe the reality because, as I said, we have found a lot of weapons, a lot of heavy weapons, in the first investigations. And we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels.

BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DIDIER REYNDERS, on Abdeslam .

In addition to the assailants who died on the night of the attacks, 18 people who are suspected of assisting the attackers are detained in six countries, and at least two others are still at large.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said last Saturday that Abdeslam had told Belgian investigators he wanted to detonate a suicide vest at the national soccer stadium near Paris on the night of the attacks, but that he "backed out". It is still unclear whether investigators believe the comments attributed to Abdeslam.

Mr Molins said Abdeslam's initial statements needed to be treated cautiously and that the investigation would continue.

On Nov 13, a team of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) assailants carried out bombings and shootings in Paris and its northern suburb of St Denis, killing 130 people and wounding hundreds at a concert hall, in cafes and restaurants, and at the Stade de France stadium.

Abdeslam, who is thought to be the only surviving member of that team, played a "key role" in the preparation and logistics of the attacks, Mr Molins said, but his exact actions on the night of Nov 13 are unclear.

 

Abdeslam was arrested in the Molenbeek section of Brussels, the Belgian capital, after an international manhunt that had lasted four months. He was charged with terrorist activities and participation in terrorist murder and is detained in a high-security prison in the northern Belgian town of Bruges.

Abdeslam is being questioned by Belgian investigators, but is wanted for trial in France.

Mr Sven Mary, Abdeslam's Belgian lawyer, has said his client would fight his extradition to France, a tactic that is expected to delay, but not block, the process.

Mr Mary also told the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF on Sunday that he intended to file a complaint against the Paris prosecutor for a violation of judicial secrecy laws, because he had revealed comments made by Abdeslam to Belgian investigators.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Nabbed man was planning 'something' in Brussels'. Print Edition | Subscribe