Paris Attacks Suspect, Abdeslam Justifies 2015 Killings

'I Put My Trust In Allah,' Paris Attacks Suspect Tells Court
A courtroom sketch made on February 5, 2018 shows prime suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam (2nd L) prior to the opening of his trial at the “Palais de Justice” courthouse in Brussels, on February 5, 2018. Benoit PEYRUCQ / AFP

 

The suspected sole surviving gunman from 2015 attacks in Paris has come close to admitting his role in the carnage in a rare statement to investigators in which he justified the killings, reports said on Friday.

Salah Abdeslam, in custody in France over the November 2015 attacks that left 130 people dead, has refused to cooperate with French judges ever since his arrest five months after the atrocities.

But on Thursday he recorded a statement in which he parroted the propaganda of Islamist extremist groups such as Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, a sports stadium and bars in the French capital.

“We don’t attack you because you eat pork, you drink wine or you listen to music, but Muslims defend themselves against those people who attack us,” Abdeslam said, according to the RTL and France Inter radio stations.

They quoted a lawyer, Jean Reinhart, who is representing the victims of the attacks and has access to the case files.

“Put your anger to one side and think about it a few minutes,” Abdeslam said in comments addressed to the dead and injured. “You are suffering from the mistakes made by your leaders.”

In April, a Belgian court sentenced Abdeslam, a French national of Moroccan origin, to 20 years in prison over a gun battle with police in his hometown of Brussels where he was arrested in March 2016.

At the opening of his trial, Abdeslam defied his judges, claiming to place his “trust in Allah and that is all”.

Abdeslam was a pot-smoking delinquent in the crime-ridden district of Molenbeek in Brussels until he became radicalised by Islamic State propaganda around his 25th birthday in 2014, investigators believe.

His Belgian lawyer revealed in 2016 that he had never read the Koran and said he had “the intelligence of an empty ashtray.”

He has been held in solitary confinement in France ahead of a trial which is expected in 2019.

AFP

Belgian Court Jails Paris Suspect For 20 Years

'I Put My Trust In Allah,' Paris Attacks Suspect Tells Court
FILE COPY A courtroom sketch made on February 5, 2018 shows prime suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks Salah Abdeslam (2nd L) prior to the opening of his trial at the “Palais de Justice” courthouse in Brussels. Benoit PEYRUCQ / AFP

 

A Belgian court on Monday found Salah Abdeslam, the last surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, guilty of terrorism-related attempted murder over a shootout with police in Brussels days before his capture in 2016, and sentenced him to 20 years in jail.

In its judgment, the court in the Belgian capital said “there can be no doubt” about jihadist Salah Abdeslam and his co-defendant Sofiane Ayari’s involvement in extremism.

Prosecutors had asked for 20-year jail terms for both.

Neither 28-year-old Abdeslam — who is being held in jail in France pending a separate trial over the 2015 Paris attacks in which 130 people died — nor Ayari, 24, were in court for the verdict.

Four police officers were wounded in the gun battle after police acting on a tip-off over the Paris attacks raided a flat in the Forest area of Brussels on March 15, 2016.

Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, was arrested three days later in the largely immigrant Molenbeek area of the Belgian capital, near his family home.

On March 22 suicide bombers from a cell linked to the Paris attacks killed 32 people and wounded hundreds more at Brussels airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital.

The judgment said Abdeslam had written a document addressed to his mother saying that “Allah guided me and chose me among his servants to open his path. It is for that reason that I had to fight the enemies of Allah with all my strength.”

He added that his brother Brahim, who blew himself up during the Paris attacks, “did not commit suicide — he is a hero of Islam.”

The judgment on Monday said that 34 shots in total were fired during the shootout.

Belgian police mounted tight security around the imposing Palace of Justice building in Brussels for the verdict.

 ‘Trust in Allah’ 

Abdeslam has spent most of the last two years in jail in France.

He was transported to the court from France for the first day of the trial amid tight security including a helicopter escort, while Tunisian national Ayari, 24, is in jail in Belgium.

On the first day of the trial, Abdeslam proclaimed that he would only put his “trust in Allah” and accused the court of being biased against Muslims.

He then refused to attend the rest of the proceedings.

Investigators say Abdeslam’s arrest spurred the Brussels bombers to bring forward the 2016 attacks, which had originally been planned for a later date, as they feared they could be captured.

Prosecutors have said that DNA links Abdeslam to the apartment in the Forest district of Brussels where the shooting took place, but not to the weapons that were used.

After Abdeslam refused to return to court for the trial in February, his lawyer Sven Mary sought the case’s dismissal on a technicality over how the judges were named to investigate the gun battle, and said media leaks had denied him a fair trial.

But lawyers for police wounded in the gun battle accused Abdeslam of “mocking” the trial.

One of the injured police officers was still suffering from after-effects including brain lesions, epileptic fits and vision and balance problems.

An organisation representing victims of the Brussels attacks and their families has asked for symbolic damages of one euro from the trial.

The Belgian trial is a prelude to a bigger one that Abdeslam will face in France at a later date over the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015, which were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group.

AFP

Brussels Bomber Brothers Were On U.S. Watch Lists Before Attack – Sources

Brussels, belgum attackersTwo brothers who carried out suicide bombings in Brussels this week were known to U.S. government agencies before the attacks, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The sources said that Khalid El Bakraoui and Brahim El Bakraoui were both on U.S. government’s counter-terrorism watch lists before the March 18 arrest of Salah Abdeslam, a French national whom prosecutors accuse of a key role in the November 13 Paris attacks.

Belgian prosecutors have identified Brahim El Bakraoui, as one of two suicide bombers who attacked Brussels’ Zaventem Airport while they say Khalid El Bakraoui was the man who carried out a suicide bombing at Brussels’ Maelbeek Metro station, near European Union headquarters.

Belgium Identifies Brussels Bomb Suspect, Suicide Bombers: Media

busserelsBelgian police have identified a prime suspect in Tuesday’s Brussels blasts and two suspected suicide bombers, linking them directly to Islamic State. militants behind last November’s Paris attacks, Belgian media reported on Wednesday.

Najim Laachraoui, 25, is believed to be the man seen on CCTV pushing a baggage trolley alongside the bombers and then running out of the Brussels airport terminal.

Earlier some media reported that he had been captured in the Brussels borough of Anderlecht, but they later said the person detained was not Laachraoui.

Police and prosecutors refused immediate comment but the federal prosecutor was due to hold a news conference at 1200 GMT.

The death toll in the attacks on the Belgian capital, home to the European Union and NATO, rose to at least 31 with some 260 wounded, Health Minister Maggie De Block said on VRT television. It could rise further because some of the bomb victims at Maelbeek metro station were blown to pieces and victims are hard to identify.

One of the suspects seen on CCTV pushing baggage trolleys at Brussels airport just before the explosions was identified as Brahim El Bakraoui, public broadcaster RTBF reported. It said his brother, Khalid, blew himself up on the metro train.

Both had criminal records for armed robbery but had not previously been linked by investigators to Islamist militants.

Laachraoui is wanted in connection with the Paris attacks. His DNA was found on at least two explosives belts used in those attacks and at a Brussels hideout used last week by prime Paris suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was arrested last Friday after a shoot-out with police.

RTBF said Khalid El Bakraoui had rented under a false name the apartment in the city’s Forest borough, where police hunting Abdeslam killed a gunman in a raid last week. He is also believed to have rented a safe house in the southern Belgian city of Charleroi used to mount last November’s Paris attacks.

The Syrian-based Islamist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, four days after Abdeslam’s arrest in Brussels, warning of “black days” for those fighting it in Syria and Iraq. Belgian warplanes have joined the coalition in the Middle East, but Brussels has long been a center of Islamist militancy.

Brussels Attack: Death Toll Rises To 30

Brussels-AirportThe death toll in explosions that tore through the departure hall of Brussels airport on Tuesday morning has been put at 30.

The recent figures were confirmed by authorities which said 230 persons were also injured.

An hour after the explosions, a second blast struck a metro station in the capital, the Belgian public broadcaster RTBF said.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The attacks came four days after Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the Paris attacks, was captured in Brussels.

The Belgian government has confirmed casualties at the airport but has given no numbers. The cause of the explosions is unknown.

Belgium has now raised its terror threat to its highest level.

The Belga agency said shots were fired and there were shouts in Arabic shortly before the blasts at the airport.

Pictures on social media showed smoke rising from the terminal building through shattered windows and passengers running away down a slipway, some still hauling their bags.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on his twitter feed: “We are following the situation minute by minute. Our priority concern is for the victims and those present in the airport.”

Brussels airport said it had canceled all flights and the complex had been evacuated and trains to the airport had been stopped. Passengers were taken to coaches from the terminal that would remove them to a secure area.

Video showed devastation inside the departure hall with ceiling tiles and glass scattered across the floor.

RTBF said the metro station hit by the explosion was close to European Union institutions. Authorities closed all metro stations in Brussels, but there were no details immediately available of any casualties in this second incident of the day.

Paris Attacks: Abdeslam’s Capture ‘Major Blow’ To ISIS – Cazeneuve

Salah AbdeslamFrance’s Interior Minister has said that the capture of a suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, is “a major blow” to the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Europe.

Bernard Cazeneuve said that security forces had managed to “incapacitate several individuals who are clearly extremely dangerous and totally determined.”

France is seeking suspect Abdeslam’s extradition from Belgium.

He was wounded and arrested in a dramatic raid in Brussels on Friday, after four months on the run.

French President, Francois Hollande, said Abdeslam’s arrest was “an important moment.

“The battle against terrorism does not end tonight, even though this is a victory.

“We must catch all those who allowed, organised or facilitated these attacks and we realise that they are a lot more numerous than we thought earlier and had identified,” Mr Hollande told a news conference on Friday with Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel.

Abdeslam was believed to have masterminded the Paris attacks which killed 130 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The suspect, a 26-year-old French national born in Brussels, had lived in the Molenbeek district of the Belgian capital before the Paris attacks.

Paris Attacks: Police Discover ‘Suicide Bomb Belt’ On Street

Paris Attacks: Police Discover 'Suicide Bomb Belt' On StreetThe French police are examining what appears to be a suicide bomb belt found dumped on a Paris street in France’s capital.

The suicide bomb belt found is said to resemble belts used by the attackers and was discovered in a suburb which a suspect is thought to have passed through after the attacks.

The US has issued a worldwide travel alert in response to the attacks.

The Belgian capital, Brussels, also remains on high alert and schools and the metro will stay closed on Tuesday.

They are due to reopen on Wednesday but the highest alert level will continue for at least another week.

Authorities fear Paris-style attacks may be carried out in the city, where at least one Paris attacker lived, with Prime Minister Charles Michel warning that the threat remains “imminent”.

The police in Belgium has charged a fourth suspect with terrorism offences related to the deadly attacks on Paris.

This was 10 days after the Islamic State (IS) militant group launched near-simultaneous attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people.

While the French President, Francois Hollande, described the attacks as an ‘act of war’ organised by the militant group, the French Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, asked European countries to ‘wake up’ to terror threats after it emerged that the suspected Belgian ringleader of the attacks had entered France undetected.

Belgium Charges Man Over Paris Attacks

BelgiumThe police in Belgium have charged a fourth suspect with terrorism offences related to the deadly attacks on Paris.

The Federal Prosecutor’s Office said on November 23 that the man, who was not identified, was detained in a series of police raids in Belgium late on the previous day.

Fifteen other people arrested in the raids were released without charge after being questioned.

The prosecutor’s statement said the man had been charged with “participating in activities of a terrorist group and with [a] terrorist attack.”

Of the other five people arrested on Monday morning, two have been released, while “further enquiries” are under way regarding the others, the prosecutor said.

Belgium had already charged Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou with aiding fleeing Salah Abdeslam, who is suspected of participating in the Paris attacks.

Abdeslam, 26, a Brussels barkeeper whose elder brother blew himself up during the Paris attacks, has been the focus of a manhunt by French and Belgian authorities.

French police said an object that appeared to be an explosives belt was found in a bin in the Paris suburb of Montrouge on Monday. The item is being examined.

Mobile phone data suggest that Salah Abdeslam – whose brother died in the attacks – was in that area late on the night of the attack.

The November 13 coordinated assaults in Paris, claimed by Islamic State (IS) militants, left 130 people dead.

A third, unnamed suspect had also been charged.

Belgian Police Arrest 16 In Anti-Terror Raids

anti-terror-raidsAs Belgium remains on a high alert, the Police have arrested 16 people in several anti-terror raids.

However, suspected Paris attacks gunman Salah Abdeslam is still at large.

Officials say a total of 22 raids were carried out on Sunday across Brussels and Charleroi.

Brussels remains on the highest level of terror alert. Universities, schools and the metro system will stay closed on Monday.

More than 130 people died and 350 others were injured in the Paris attacks 10 days ago.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is reported to be in Paris for talks with the French President, Francois Hollande, on co-operation in a fight against Islamic State (IS) group.

They visited the Bataclan concert hall where at least 89 people were killed.

The French government says the aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, will be operational in the Mediterranean on Monday and ready to act against IS militants in Syria.

Belgium Hunts Several Terror Suspects

BelgiumBelgium’s capital, Brussels, is under security lock down for a second day, as the Police hunt for several terror suspects.

The nation’s capital is on its highest level of alert amid fears of an attack.

The Belgian Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, said that the current threat was greater than that posed by Salah Abdeslam – the man wanted for the Paris attacks.

The city was a base for the Paris attackers – Islamic State militants – who killed 130 people in attacks in Paris.

The security situation in Brussels is being reviewed, while metro services remain suspended, and residents have been told to avoid crowds.

Soldiers are patrolling the streets as a manhunt has continued for the 26-year-old Abdeslam, a French national whom Police described as armed and dangerous.

According to reports he was in the Brussels area and trying to get to Syria.

Brussels Raises Terror Alert For Fears Of Paris-Style Attack

Brussels Terror AlertThe Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, says the decision to raise the terror alert level in Brussels to the highest level, was taken due to fears that there might be an attack there, like the one that happened in Paris.

Some of the attackers who killed 129 people in Paris lived in Brussels.

Leading suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is believed to have gone back to Belgium and a huge manhunt is underway.

The Brussels metro is closed till Sunday and people have been told to avoid crowds which include shopping centres and concerts.

The authorities have also recommended that large events, including football matches, be cancelled.

The Belgian government will review the security situation in Brussels on Sunday afternoon, Mr Michel added.

Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, had earlier told reporters that the country’s situation was ‘serious’, but ‘under control’, as he arrived for a special security cabinet meeting on Saturday.

Turkish police, nonetheless, said that they have arrested a Belgian man of Moroccan descent on suspicion that he scouted out sites in Paris.

The Belgian authorities have so far charged three people with involvement in the attacks, which Islamic State said it carried out.

Two Dead In Raid Of Flat In St Denis

st denis raidFrench prosecutor says two persons have died including a suicide bomber in a raid of a flat at a scene of a police standoff in Saint Denis,  following Friday’s attacks in Paris.

Three men have also been taken into custody by special forces and a man and woman have been arrested close to the St Denis flat.

Among those arrested by police is the possible owner of the apartment where the suspects are believed to have been holed up in Saint-Denis, AFP reports.

The man, who was not named, said he provided accommodation for two people in the apartment at 8 Rue du Corbillon after a friend asked him to do so. She told him they came from Belgium and needed a place to stay.

The target of police action in the Paris suburb of St Denis is the Islamic State militant, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was initially thought to have orchestrated the Paris attacks from Syria, police and justice sources said.

French media also reported that at least two people had been killed. There are also reports of a woman who detonated a suicide belt.

People living in or near St Denis have been subjected to rigorous security checks, as the operation in the suburb continues. The area itself has been sealed by the military.

Shops and schools have also been closed and transport was suspended.

Police, however, said that they believe the suspected mastermind of last week’s attacks, Abaaoud, is holed up in an apartment in Saint Denis, along with up to five other heavily armed people.

The official, nonetheless, said that scores of police, who stormed the building early on Wednesday were met with unexpectedly violent resistance.

Reinforcements were summoned and several people were injured.

French investigators believe that a Moroccan-origin Belgian jihadist masterminded the Paris attacks which killed at least 129 people.

Abaaoud is thought to be in Syria now with the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

The 27-year-old, grew up in Molenbeek, a district of Brussels known for its many Arab immigrants, blighted by high unemployment and overcrowded housing.

He is an associate of Salah Abdeslam, who is on the run and whose brother Brahim, blew himself up in Paris.