Paris attacks suspect reportedly planning new acts

  • The federal penitentiary in Bruges, Belgium, where a convoy thought to be carrying captured fugitive Salah Abdeslam arrived on Saturday, March 19, 2016 . Abdeslam was charged with “terrorist murder” on Saturday by Belgian authorities and his lawyer vowed to fight any attempt to extradite him to France to stand trial for the slaughter of 130 people. (AP Photo/Geoffroy Van der Hasselt) Geoffroy Van der Hasselt

  • A special forces police officer awaits a convoy and ambulance thought to be carrying captured fugitive Salah Abdeslam at the federal penitentary in Bruges, Belgium, on Saturday, March 19, 2016. Salah Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's Paris attacks, was charged with “terrorist murder” on Saturday by Belgian authorities and his lawyer vowed to fight any attempt to extradite him to France to stand trial for the slaughter of 130 people. (AP Photo/Geoffroy Van der Hasselt) Geoffroy Van der Hasselt

  • Sven Mary, lawyer for captured fugitive Salah Abdeslam, leaves the federal police headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Saturday, March 19, 2016. Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks, was arrested after a four-month manhunt with a suspected accomplice and both men have been discharged from a hospital in Brussels and will now face official questioning and a fast-track extradition effort. Abdeslam and his companion were injured when they were captured by police. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong) Peter Dejong

  • A police convoy thought to be carrying captured fugitive Salah Abdeslam leaves the federal police headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Saturday. Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks, will now face official questioning and a fast-track extradition effort. AP Photo

Associated Press
Published: 3/20/2016 9:50:00 PM

BRUSSELS — The top suspect in last year’s Paris attacks told investigators after he was captured that he was planning new operations from Brussels and possibly had access to several weapons, Belgium’s foreign minister said Sunday.

Salah Abdeslam had claimed that “he was ready to restart something from Brussels, and it’s maybe the reality,” Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said.

Reynders gave credence to the suspect’s claim because “we found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons in the first investigations, and we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels.”

Abdeslam, captured Friday in a police raid in Brussels, was charged Saturday with “terrorist murder” by Belgian authorities. He is a top suspect in the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.

Abdeslam was wounded during the raid, and a senior Belgian police official said that he was shot in the leg as he ran toward officers outside an apartment in the Molenbeek neighborhood.

The head of Belgium’s special federal police unit, Roland Pacolet, told broadcaster RTL that one hypothesis being studied by police was that the suspect wanted to commit suicide.

“When someone comes out running toward the police, we have to ask ourselves some questions. What did he have in mind? What was he going to do? Either he wanted to get killed by the police, or he wanted to blow himself up near the police,” Pacolet said.

He said that Abdeslam was unarmed.

Speaking to security experts at a German Marshall Fund conference in Brussels, the foreign minister said “we have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but we are sure that there are others.”

Reynders urged European intelligence, law enforcement, and border authorities to exchange more information to help track the suspects down.

Interpol also has called on European countries to be vigilant at their borders, saying Abdeslam’s accomplices may try to flee after his capture. The international police agency recommended closer checks at borders, especially for stolen passports. Many of the Nov. 13 attackers and accomplices traveled on falsified or stolen documents

Abdeslam’s Belgian lawyer, meanwhile, threatened to launch legal action Monday against a French prosecutor, accusing him of breaching the confidentiality of the investigation into the deadly rampage in Paris.

Sven Mary told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF that part of the press conference given on Saturday by Paris prosecutor Francois Molins “is a violation. It’s a fault, and I cannot let it go unchallenged.”

Molins said Abdeslam, 26, told Belgian officials he had “wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France” as a suicide bomber, but that he backed out at the last minute.

France is seeking Abdeslam’s extradition for trial there, but Mary said he would fight any attempt to hand over his client and that investigators have much to learn from the suspect, who was born in Belgium but has French and Moroccan nationality.

“Salah is of great importance to this investigation. I would even say that he is worth gold. He is cooperating, he is communicating, he is not insisting on his right to silence. I think it would be worthwhile now to give things a bit of time ... for investigators to be able to talk to him,” Mary said.

In response, an official in the Paris prosecutor’s office said French law allows prosecutors to speak about elements of an investigation. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss this issue publicly.


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