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Salah Abdeslam will break silence over role in Paris attacks ‘at a later date’

Matthieu Alexandre, AFP | Abdeslam’s lawyer, Frank Berton, speaks to reporters in Paris on April 27, 2016

Top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam on Wednesday was charged with murder, links with a terrorist group and possession of weapons, hours after he was handed over to French authorities by Belgian federal prosecutors.

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The charges were revealed to reporters by Abdeslam’s lawyer, Frank Berton, who also said that the alleged terrorist would break his silence over his role in Paris attacks “at a later date”.

Abdeslam spent his first night in France at Europe’s biggest prison, Fleury-Mégoris, on the outskirts of Paris, where he was held in solitary confinement under “maximum security”, according to Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas.

The 26-year-old, who eluded intelligence and security services for four months after the deadly November 13 attacks in and around the French capital, was captured in Belgium last month.

He will have another hearing over his role in the coordinated attacks on May 20, lawyer Berton said.

‘ONLY THE START OF LENGTHY LEGAL PROCEEDINGS’

Abdeslam is believed to be the only surviving participant of the assaults on popular Paris bars and restaurants, as well as the Bataclan concert hall and the Stade de France stadium. The attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

“According to reports, Salah Abdeslam drove the attackers to the Stade de France and then came back to the heart of Paris, where he was to mow down people before detonating himself. He failed to do that,” said FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor Leela Jacinto.

"He dumped his suicide vest and then he got apprehended in Belgium. The fact that he is in custody is very valuable to investigative judges,” Jacinto added.

He was charged with attempted murder in Belgium over a shootout with police just days before he was captured.

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.

‘Eager to talk’

A French national born and raised in Belgium to Moroccan-born parents, Abdeslam was Europe’s most wanted fugitive until his arrest near the family home on March 18.

‘ABDESLAM WILL HAVE NO CONTACT WITH OTHER PRISONERS’

Before his radicalisation, the former small-time criminal was involved in drug-dealing, forgery and fraud.

His elder brother Brahim, a Brussels barkeeper, blew himself up outside a Parisian cafe on the night of the attacks.

Before Abdeslam’s extradition on Wednesday, Berton said his client was eager to return to France. “[He’s] anxious to explain himself, almost impatient to leave for Paris,” he told regional daily "La 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."

He will be held in preventive custody at a prison near the French capital, and will be kept in complete isolation, according to French authorities.

Profile: From petty crime to IS group terrorist
Profile: From petty crime to IS group terrorist

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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