Salah Abdeslam

Salah Abdeslam is the sole surviving member of the group of terrorists who carried out the deadly ISIS attacks in Paris, France, on November 13, 2015.Alastair MacDonald and John Irish, “‘I was a suicide bomber’: Paris suspect charged in Belgium,” Reuters, March 20, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-abdeslam-idUSKCN0WK1KB; “The Latest: Abdeslam, accomplice guilty of attempted murder,” Associated Press, April 24, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/17fd96e2b3664a77b59cdf256609947c/The-Latest:-Abdeslam,-accomplice-guilty-of-attempted-murder. The attackers targeted public venues scattered throughout Paris, killing 130 people and wounding 350 others. Abdeslam was arrested in Belgium on March 18, 2016 and was extradited to France on April 27, 2016, where he was found guilty of terrorism and murder charges in June 2022.Aurelien Breeden, “Salah Abdeslam, Suspect in Paris Attacks, Is Extradited to France,” New York Times, April 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/28/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-paris-attacks-suspect-extradited-to-france.html. Abdeslam was transferred to Belgium on July 14, 2022 to face new charges regarding his alleged involvement in the March 2016 Brussels bombings that killed 32 individuals.Simon Rushton, “Convicted Paris terrorist faces trial for attack in Belgium,” The National, July 14, 2022, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/europe/2022/07/14/convicted-paris-terrorist-faces-trial-for-attack-in-belgium. At the start of the trial in September 2022, Abdeslam refused to take the stand, claiming the conditions prevented adequate communication with his lawyers.“Brussels bombing accused Salah Abdeslam refuses to take stand,” Agence France Presse, September 12, 2022, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2022/09/12/Brussels-bombing-accused-Salah-Abdeslam-refuses-to-take-stand; “Brussels Bombing Accused Abdeslam Denounces 'Unfair' Trial,” Agence France Presse, September12, 2022, https://www.barrons.com/news/brussels-bombing-accused-abdeslam-denounces-unfair-trial-01662984007.

A gray Volkswagen Polo rented in Belgium under Abdeslam’s name was found near the scene of the carnage at Paris’s Bataclan concert hall, where gunmen randomly fired on concert-goers with automatic weapons during a performance by an American rock band.“The Expanding Web of Connections Among the Paris Attackers,” New York Times, last updated December 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/15/world/europe/manhunt-for-paris-attackers.html. Despite a massive manhunt following the attacks, Abdeslam managed to evade capture by European authorities, allegedly with the help of friends and family as well as a network of extremist accomplices.“The Expanding Web of Connections Among the Paris Attackers,” New York Times, last updated December 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/15/world/europe/manhunt-for-paris-attackers.html.

Abdeslam’s brother Ibrahim Abdeslam also participated in the ISIS attacks in Paris, dying after detonating his suicide vest at a restaurant a mile away from the stadium attack.“The Expanding Web of Connections Among the Paris Attackers,” New York Times, last updated December 9, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/15/world/europe/manhunt-for-paris-attackers.html. Salah and Ibrahim Abdeslam reportedly owned a bar together in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, which they sold six weeks before the Paris attacks.David A. Graham, “Who is Salah Abdeslam?” Atlantic, March 18, 2016, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/03/salah-abdeslam-paris-attacks-arrest-belgium/474453/. According to another brother, Mohamed Abdeslam, Salah Abdeslam became a more devout Muslim in the months before the attack, and stopped smoking and drinking.James McAuley, Griff Witte, and Michael Birnbaum, “Key suspect in Paris attacks captured in Brussels raid; four others arrested,” Washington Post, March 18, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/european-officials-key-figure-in-paris-attacks-wounded-in-brussels-raid/2016/03/18/b0327da6-ed29-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html.

After four months of evading European law enforcement, Belgian police arrested Salah Abdeslam on March 18, 2016, in the now notorious Brussels suburb of Molenbeek where he was raised.“Salah Abdeslam arrêté à Molenbeek, les opérations toujours en cours (direct vidéo),” Le Soir (Brussels), March 18, 2016, http://www.lesoir.be/1155105/article/actualite/belgique/2016-03-18/salah-abdeslam-arrete-molenbeek-operations-toujours-en-cours-direct-video. On March 15, 2016, Belgian police raided an apartment in the Brussels suburb of Forest and engaged in a gun battle with extremists, killing an Algerian radical named Mohamed Belkaid. Four police officers were wounded in the firefight.Julian E. Barnes and Valentina Pop, “Captured Paris Terror Suspect Salah Abdeslam Says He Planned More Attacks,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/arrested-paris-terror-suspect-salah-abdeslam-says-he-planned-more-attacks-1458499173; Matthias Verbergt, “Belgian Authorities Find Islamic State Flag in Apartment After Gunbattle,” Wall Street Journal, last updated March 16, 2016, https://www.wsj.com/articles/belgian-authorities-find-islamic-state-flag-in-apartment-after-gunbattle-1458129245. Abdeslam’s fingerprints were later discovered in the apartment. Police believe that Abdeslam was one of two suspects who evaded police that day, the other being a Syrian-trained fighter using the name “Amine Choukry.” Three days later, police discovered Abdeslam at a Molenbeek apartment after tracing a reactivated phone that had been used during the November Paris attacks.James McAuley, Michael Birnbaum and Souad Mekhennet, “Capture of Paris terror suspect in Brussels unfolded over several watchful days,” Washington Post, March 19, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/fallout-of-arrest-in-belgium-of-paris-terror-suspect/2016/03/19/13d56ede-ed4f-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_belgium-0625am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory. Large food orders to the residence supported police suspicions that more people were living there than officially documented.James McAuley, Michael Birnbaum and Souad Mekhennet, “Capture of Paris terror suspect in Brussels unfolded over several watchful days,” Washington Post, March 19, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/fallout-of-arrest-in-belgium-of-paris-terror-suspect/2016/03/19/13d56ede-ed4f-11e5-a9ce-681055c7a05f_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_belgium-0625am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory. On March 18, Abdeslam was captured after he burst from an apartment building on Rue des Quatre-Vents, near Abdeslam’s family’s home. Police shot Abdeslam in the leg while he was attempting to run away.Alissa J. Rubin and Aurelien Breeden, “Paris Attacks Suspect, Salah Abdeslam, Is Captured in Brussels,” New York Times, March 18, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-belgium-apartment.html.

Abdeslam has a history of involvement in criminal activity. In 2010, he was arrested on robbery charges and served time in prison with his childhood friend and fellow Paris gunman Abdelhamid Abaaoud.Samuel Osborne, Caroline Mortimer, “Salah Abdeslam: World's most-wanted fugitive and last surviving Paris attacker captured in Brussels by police,” Independent (London), March 18, 2016, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/paris-attacks-suspect-salah-abdeslam-shot-and-wounded-in-brussels-anti-terror-raid-a6939216.html. According to his ex-girlfriend, Abdeslam appeared to radicalize in 2014 after Abaaoud returned from Syria, where he had fought for ISIS and was filmed in propaganda videos.Avi Davis,” Salah Abdeslam: From petty crime to IS group terrorism,” March 19, 2016, France 24, http://www.france24.com/en/20160319-salah-abdeslam-what-we-know. Both Abdeslam and Abaaoud grew up in Molenbeek, a neighborhood associated with an impressive roster of violent extremists, including suspected August 2015 train assailant Ayoub El Khazzani and May 2014 Brussels Jewish Museum shooter Mehdi Nemmouche.Liam Stack, “How Belgium Became Home to Recent Terror Plots,” New York Times, November 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/11/15/world/europe/belgium-terrorism-suspects.html; Tim Hume, “Brussels raids: Police hit Molenbeek, area at heart of Belgium's jihadist threat,” CNN, November 16, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/15/europe/paris-attacks-belgium-molenbeek/. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has called for a crackdown on violent extremists in Molenbeek, saying, “Almost every time, there is a link to Molenbeek.”Robert Jan Bartunek and Alastair MacDonald, “Guns, God and grievances - Belgium's Islamist ‘airbase,’” Reuters, November 16, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-belgium-guns-insight-idUSKCN0T504J20151116. The mayor of Molenbeek has herself called the suburb “a breeding ground for violence.”Robert Jan Bartunek and Alastair MacDonald, “Guns, God and grievances - Belgium's Islamist ‘airbase,’” Reuters, November 16, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-belgium-guns-insight-idUSKCN0T504J20151116.

Abdeslam is one of two Paris suspects who escaped Paris alive following the attacks, the other being alleged attacks coordinator Abaaoud. Abaaoud managed to evade an extensive manhunt for days following the attacks and was ultimately killed in a shootout with police on November 18, 2015, in the Paris suburb of St. Denis.Aurelien Breeden and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, “Chief Suspect in Paris Attacks Died in Raid, France Says,” New York Times, November 19, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/world/europe/paris-attacks.html.

A call intercepted by Belgian investigators indicated that two men—using the false names “Soufiane Kayal” and “Samir Bouzid”—were senior ISIS operatives who directed the Paris attacks from Brussels.Paul Cruickshank, “Paris attacks: Directives came from operatives in Brussels, investigators say,” CNN, January 7, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/07/europe/paris-attacks-brussels-operatives/. Authorities believed the man who went by the name “Samir Bouzid” to be “Mohamed Belkaid,” the Algerian suspect killed by Belgian police during the March 15, 2016, raid in Brussels.Alissa J. Rubin and Aurelien Breeden, “Paris Attacks Suspect, Salah Abdeslam, Is Captured in Brussels,” New York Times, March 18, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/19/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-belgium-apartment.html. One other suspect—a man who went by the aliases “Amine Choukri” and “Monir Ahmed Alaaj”—was arrested alongside Abdeslam on March 18, 2016.Alastair MacDonald and John Irish, “'I was a suicide bomber': Paris suspect charged in Belgium,” Reuters, March 20, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-shooting-abdeslam-idUSKCN0WK1KB This suspect would later be identified as Sofien Ayari, a Tunisian who had also been in the apartment during the March 15 shootout with police. Ayari was charged with attempted murder for his role in the gun battle.Dan Alexe, “Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam gets 20 years in Belgium for attempted murder,” New Europe, April 23, 2018, https://www.neweurope.eu/article/paris-attacks-suspect-abdeslam-gets-20-years-in-belgium-for-attempted-murder/; Alissa J. Rubin and Milan Schreuer, “Sole Surviving Suspect in Paris Attacks Stands Trial in Belgium,” New York Times, February 5, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-trial-belgium.html.

Abdeslam was extradited to France on April 27, 2016, on charges of murder connected to terrorism, participation in a terrorist conspiracy, and possession of weapons and explosives.Aurelien Breeden, “Salah Abdeslam, Suspect in Paris Attacks, Is Extradited to France,” New York Times, April 27, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/28/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-paris-attacks-suspect-extradited-to-france.html. Abdeslam was reportedly held in solitary confinement and under 24-hour suicide watch at the Fleury-Mérogis prison, south of Paris.Jennifer Rankin, “Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam refuses to answer questions at trial,” Guardian (London), February 5, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/05/paris-attacks-suspect-salah-abdeslam-goes-on-trial-over-brussels-shootout.

French authorities returned Abdeslam to Brussels on February 5, 2018, to face trial on charges of attempted murder in relation to the March 2016 shootout with police.Jennifer Rankin, “Paris attack suspect Salah Abdeslam refuses to answer questions at trial,” Guardian (London), February 5, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/05/paris-attacks-suspect-salah-abdeslam-goes-on-trial-over-brussels-shootout. During the first day of the Belgian trial, Abdeslam claimed that he had already been judged “mercilessly” because he is Muslim.Alissa J. Rubin and Milan Schreuer, “Sole Surviving Suspect in Paris Attacks Stands Trial in Belgium,” New York Times, February 5, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/world/europe/salah-abdeslam-trial-belgium.html. For the remainder of the trial, he refused to cooperate with the court, and reportedly did not speak to prosecutors or even his own lawyers. An agreement between French and Belgian authorities would have resulted in Abdeslam shuttling between the court and a prison across the border in France so he could remain in French custody.“Salah Abdeslam trial: Paris attacks suspect lambasts ‘anti-Muslim bias,’” BBC News, February 5, 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42940636. However, Abdeslam refused to appear in the Brussels court after the first day and so remained in his French prison cell for the duration of the trial.Erin McLaughlin and Hilary Clarke, “Paris suspect Saleh Abdeslam jailed for 20 years over police shootout,” CNN, April 23, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/23/europe/paris-suspect-saleh-abdeslam-jailed-beligium---intl/index.html.

On April 23, 2018, Abdeslam was found guilty of attempted murder in a “terrorist context” for involvement in the March 15, 2016, shootout that injured four police officers prior to his capture. Abdeslam and co-defendant Ayarai both received the maximum 20-year prison sentence.Erin McLaughlin and Hilary Clarke, “Paris suspect Saleh Abdeslam jailed for 20 years over police shootout,” CNN, April 23, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/23/europe/paris-suspect-saleh-abdeslam-jailed-beligium---intl/index.html. Abdeslam was not present in the court during the reading of the verdict.Erin McLaughlin and Hilary Clarke, “Paris suspect Saleh Abdeslam jailed for 20 years over police shootout,” CNN, April 23, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/23/europe/paris-suspect-saleh-abdeslam-jailed-beligium---intl/index.html.

On September 8, 2021, French authorities began a trial at Paris’s Palais de Justice courthouse with almost 1,800 plaintiffs pressing charges against Abdeslam and 19 other defendants. The other 19 defendants—six of whom were to be tried in absentia—faced charges ranging from being accomplices to murder and hostage-taking to helping plan the 2015 attacks. Abdeslam appeared in court dressed in black and wearing a black face mask, which he removed when questioning began. When asked to identify himself, Abdeslam instead recited the Islamic declaration of faith that Allah is God and Muhammad is his servant. Abdeslam told the court he gave up his day job “to become an Islamic State soldier.”Tangi Salaün and Yiming Woo, “Main suspect tells Paris attacks trial he’s ‘an Islamic State soldier,’” Reuters, September 8, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/security-high-paris-2015-jihadist-attacks-trial-begins-2021-09-07/. Abdeslam also shouted at the presiding judge that he and other defendants had been treated “like dogs.”Tangi Salaün and Yiming Woo, “Main suspect tells Paris attacks trial he’s ‘an Islamic State soldier,’” Reuters, September 8, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/security-high-paris-2015-jihadist-attacks-trial-begins-2021-09-07/; Aurelien Breeden, “Trial Begins Over November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks,” New York Times, September 8, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/08/world/europe/paris-terror-attacks-trial.html. On the second day of the trial, the presiding judge briefly suspended the trial after Abdeslam repeatedly attempted to make political statements during a discussion on which victims’ representatives would participate during the trial.“Paris attacks trial disrupted after main defendant defies judge,” Reuters, September 9, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/paris-attacks-trial-disrupted-after-main-defendant-defies-judge-2021-09-09/.

Abdeslam made his first statement on his motivation behind the Bataclan attack on September 16, 2021. Abdeslam told a French court that the deaths of the Bataclan attack victims were “nothing personal,” and that the killings were a response to French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. The trial is expected to last nine months, with September being dedicated to police and forensic evidence, October to victims’ testimony, and November and December dedicated to the testimony of officials. Among those officials will be former French President Francois Hollande and the relatives of the attackers.“Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam tells court the deaths of 130 people were 'nothing personal'” Sky News, September 16, 2021, https://news.sky.com/story/paris-attacks-suspect-salah-abdeslam-tells-court-the-deaths-of-130-people-were-nothing-personal-12408861.

On June 10, 2022, French prosecutors recommended that Abdeslam serve a life sentence without possibility for parole, a sentence that has rarely been handed out by French courts. In that scenario, the possibility of a reduced sentence will only be considered once Abdeslam serves 30 years, after which a judge can determine whether to grant parole under certain circumstances. Judges are expected to deliver a verdict later in June 2022.Nick Kostov, “French Prosecutors Seek Life in Prison for Key Participant in 2015 Paris Terrorist Attack,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/french-prosecutors-seek-life-in-prison-for-key-participant-in-2015-paris-terrorist-attack-11654882989?mod=world_major_2_pos1&utm_source=iterable&utm_. On June 29, 2022, the court found Abdeslam guilty of murder and terrorism charges. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. All but one of the 19 other defendants were also found guilty.George Bowden, “Paris attacks: Surviving suspect Salah Abdeslam found guilty,” BBC News, June 29, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61989354. On July 12, 2022, a Paris appeals court released a statement that Abdelsam did not appeal his sentence or guilty verdict, making him ineligible for a second trial.Mimosa Spencer, “No appeal from Bataclan suspect, closing chapter on 2015 Paris attacks,” Reuters, July 12, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/no-appeal-bataclan-suspect-closing-chapter-2015-paris-attacks-2022-07-12/.

Abdeslam was transferred to Belgium on July 14, 2022 to face new charges regarding his alleged involvement in the March 2016 bombings. These attacks, which occurred at Brussels’ Zaventem airport and the city’s Maelbeek metro station, killed 32 individuals and were carried out by the same cell as the attacks in Paris. Abdeslam’s trial is scheduled to begin on October 10, 2022. Until then, he will remain in a prison in Belgium.Simon Rushton, “Convicted Paris terrorist faces trial for attack in Belgium,” The National, July 14, 2022, https://www.thenationalnews.com/world/europe/2022/07/14/convicted-paris-terrorist-faces-trial-for-attack-in-belgium.

On September 12, 2022, Abdeslam and eight other suspected jihadists appeared at a Brussels court where they face charges for their connection to the March 2016 Brussels bombings. Abdeslam refused to take the stand as he claimed the glass-enclosed cubicles used in the trial prevented the defendants from being able to effectively speak with their lawyers. The trial is expected to last until June 2023.“Brussels bombing accused Salah Abdeslam refuses to take stand,” Agence France Presse, September 12, 2022, https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2022/09/12/Brussels-bombing-accused-Salah-Abdeslam-refuses-to-take-stand; “Brussels Bombing Accused Abdeslam Denounces 'Unfair' Trial,” Agence France Presse, September12, 2022, https://www.barrons.com/news/brussels-bombing-accused-abdeslam-denounces-unfair-trial-01662984007.

Extremist entity
ISIS
Type(s) of Organization:
Insurgent, territory-controlling, religious, terrorist, violent
Ideologies and Affiliations:
Islamist, jihadist, pan-Islamist, Salafist, takfiri
Position(s):
Gunman, would-be suicide bomber

ISIS is a violent jihadist group based in Iraq and Syria. The group has declared wilayas (provinces) in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the North Caucasus. ISIS has also waged attacks in Turkey, Lebanon, France, Belgium, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Tunisia, and Kuwait.

  • Rhetoric
Return to Full Database

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

Fact:

On September 30, 2017, there was a small explosion at Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo, Egypt, though there were no casualties. Hasm later claimed responsibility for the attack, the militant group’s first on a civilian target, saying it was a warning in response to the Myanmar’s military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. 

View Archive

CEP on Twitter