Salah Abdeslam

Salah Abdeslam is allegedly one of at least 10 terrorists who carried out the deadly ISIS attacks in Paris, France, on November 13, 2015, which killed 130 people and wounded 350 more.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. He is the sole surviving suspect in the Paris attacks.“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, including restaurants, cafes, a sports stadium, and even a concert hall. Abdeslam is personally implicated in attacks at a sport stadium outside of Paris where, as he revealed to Belgian investigators in March 2016, he had planned to detonate a suicide bomb but purportedly changed his mind.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 Abdeslam was arrested in Belgium on March 18, 2016. He was extradited to France on April 27, 2016.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. On April 23, 2018, a Belgian court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for attempted murder in relation to a March 2016 shootout with police days before his arrest. He remains in a French prison awaiting a separate trial on charges related to the 2015 Paris attacks.Bill Chappell, “Belgian Court Sentences Paris Attack Suspect Salah Abdeslam to 20-Year Term,” NPR, April 23, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/23/604940780/belgian-court-sentences-paris-attack-suspect-salah-abdeslam-to-20-year-term.

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. Abdeslam remains in French custody awaiting a future, separate trial on charges related to the November 2015 Paris attacks.Bill Chappell, “Belgian Court Sentences Paris Attack Suspect Salah Abdeslam to 20-Year Term,” NPR, April 23, 2018, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/04/23/604940780/belgian-court-sentences-paris-attack-suspect-salah-abdeslam-to-20-year-term.

 
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