Salah Abdeslam, the key suspect apprehended after the November terrorist attack in Paris that left 130 dead, is no longer cooperating with Belgian police, and says he will stop working against extradition to France.
Abdeslam, a 26-year-old French national born in Belgium, was wounded and arrested Friday after a police raid in Brussels. Four days later, suicide bombers killed 31 and wounded hundreds. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for both the Paris and Brussels attacks.
According to Reuters news service on March 24, officials initially estimated it would take three months for Abdeslam to be handed over to French authorities after he initially sought to remain in Brussels. It’s unclear why the suspected terrorist reversed his position, but officials said Abdeslam has not spoken to investigators since the bombings in Brussels, and has stopped cooperating with police.
Abdeslam’s lawyer, Sven Mary, previously told the media that Abdeslam would fight efforts to transfer him to France, but in the wake of the recent bombings, “wishes to leave for France as quickly as possible” so he could “explain himself in France.”
Abdeslam was the only suspect known to have survived the terrorist attacks that took innocent lives of individuals at Parisian restaurants, shops and a concert venue on November 13. Europe’s most wanted man was taken into custody on March 18 after a gun battle in Molenbeek, a suburb of Brussels. He was charged with “participation in a terrorist murder” and “taking part in the activities in a terrorist organization.”
According to CNN, officials said Abdeslam played a “key role” in the Paris attacks. It also appears he was unwilling to die for his cause. Investigators said they found a discarded suicide bomb belt with DNA that matched Abdeslam’s.
Officials were hoping that Abdeslam, who was shot in the knee during the raid, would provide security and intelligence agencies with information regarding his ties to the Islamic State and how the Paris attacks were planned and carried out.
At a news conference announcing Abdeslam’s arrest, Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium and President Francois Hollande of France said the capturing of Abdeslam was a “huge success in the battle against terrorism.”
“We must catch all those who enabled, organized or facilitated these attacks, and we are realizing that they are much more numerous than we had originally thought and identified,” Hollande said.