US designates Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam 'global terrorist'

The United States has designated Salah Abdeslam as a "global terrorist".
The United States has designated Salah Abdeslam as a "global terrorist".PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday designated a leading suspect in last year’s militant attacks on Paris, Salah Abdeslam, as a “global terrorist” under US law.

The order, announced by the State Department, freezes any assets held by Abdeslam in US jurisdictions and forbids Americans from doing business with him.

“Belgian-born French citizen Salah Abdeslam is an operative for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” it said, using a former name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

The US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control separately confirmed that Abdeslam’s name has been added to its list of specially designated foreign nationals.

The 26-year-old was arrested on March 18 in a police raid on a hideout in the Brussels district of Molenbeek and is due to be extradited to France.

He is accused of being the sole surviving member of a gang that launched a series of attacks on civilian targets in Paris on Nov 13 last year that left 130 dead.

“Witnesses identified Abdeslam as the driver of a car full of gunmen that killed patrons at numerous restaurants in Paris,” the US statement said.

“Authorities found his DNA both on a discarded suicide belt and along with traces of explosives in a Brussels apartment,” it added.

“Abdeslam stated after his arrest that he planned on conducting a suicide bombing outside of the Paris soccer stadium, but had ‘backed out.’”

Four days after he was arrested, the Belgian capital was struck by coordinated ISIS suicide bombings at an airport and a metro station.

The suspects in these attacks are alleged to have links to Abdeslam and the Paris attacks cell.

Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at the metro, rented a flat in Brussels where Abdeslam’s fingerprints were found.

And one of the two airport bombers, Najim Laachraoui, drove to Hungary with Abdeslam in September.