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france 24 Europe

Belgium approves extradition of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to France

© French police picture of Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-04-01

Belgium’s federal prosecutor on Thursday approved the extradition to France of Salah Abdeslam, a prime suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks.

"As Salah Abdeslam had declared to agree to be transferred to France, a federal magistrate took his formal declaration today... The transfer is possible," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement.

A lawyer for Abdeslam said earlier on Thursday that Abdeslam had dropped his initial objection to being extradited and had also renewed an offer to cooperate with the French authorities.

"Salah Abdeslam wishes to be transferred to the French authorities," Cédric Moisse told reporters. "He wishes to cooperate with the French authorities."

Prosecutors said France and Belgium would now discuss on how to proceed with the transfer.

Abdeslam was arrested on March 18, four months after the November 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

Investigators believe the attacks in Paris and Brussels were carried out by militants from the same Islamic State (IS) group network.

Four days after his arrest, the Belgian capital was struck by coordinated Islamic State group bombings at the airport and a metro station carried out by suicide attackers with links to Abdeslam and the Paris attacks cell. Abdeslam has denied having prior knowledge of the Brussels attacks.

Abdeslam's lawyer earlier said that his 26-year-old client had agreed to be transferred to France under a European arrest warrant, clearing the way for a fast-track extradition.

French President François Hollande announced immediately after Abdeslam's arrest that he wanted him returned to France as quickly as possible to face justice over the attacks.

He is believed to have acted as a logistics coordinator for the Paris massacre and has told investigators that he was meant to carry out a suicide attack at the Stade de France stadium but backed out.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2016-03-31

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