Key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam extradited to France
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Key Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam was handed over to French authorities on Wednesday, federal prosecutors in Belgium have announced.
A French national born and raised in Belgium to Moroccan-born parents, Abdeslam was known as Europe’s most wanted fugitive for his role in the Paris attacks until his capture in Belgium’s capital on March 18 after a four-month manhunt.|
The 26-year-old suspect arrived in France around 9:05am local time and is expected to appear before investigative judges later today, according to Paris officials.
"Within the framework of the Paris attacks of the 13th of November 2015, Salah Abdeslam has been surrendered to the French authorities this morning," the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office stated.
Backed out of attack?
Abeslam previously told a magistrate he planned to blow himself up at the capital's Stade de France stadium on November 13, but backed out at the last minute. He also told investigators he arranged logistics for the Paris attacks.
Abdeslam’s elder brother Brahim, a Brussels barkeeper, blew himself up outside a Parisian cafe on the night of the attacks.
The terrorist atrocity in November, which saw a 10-man team of gunmen and suicide bombers launch a series of attacks across the French capital, was claimed by the Islamic State group.
Preparing his defence
Abdeslam will be represented in court by notorious defense attorney Frank Berton, according to French regional newspaper Voix du Nord. Berton previously represented a number of the terrorists in the infamous 1995 bombings in Paris which saw eight people killed.
Prior to Abdeslam’s extradition on Wednesday, Berton said that Abdeslam was eager to return to France. “[He’s] anxious to explain himself, almost impatient to leave for Paris,” he told Voix du Nord.
Cédric Moisse, a lawyer who represented Abdeslam while he was in Belgium, told reporters earlier this month, "He wishes to cooperate with the French authorities."
Abdeslam’s extradition on Wednesday comes a week after he was charged with attempted murder in Belgium over a shootout with police just days before his arrest.
Four police officers were wounded and one gunman was killed in the incident at a suspected militant safe house in the Brussels district of Forest on March 15.
The former small-time criminal was involved in drug dealing, forgery and fraud, before his radicalisation.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)