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Prosecutor: Top Suspect in Paris Attack Planned Suicide, Changed Mind

  • VOA News

Belgian police officers secure an access to the federal police headquarters in Brussels, March 19, 2016, after Salah Abdeslam, the most-wanted fugitive from November's Paris attacks, was arrested after a shootout with police in Brussels on Friday.

Belgian police officers secure an access to the federal police headquarters in Brussels, March 19, 2016, after Salah Abdeslam, the most-wanted fugitive from November's Paris attacks, was arrested after a shootout with police in Brussels on Friday.

A French prosecutor said Saturday that the top suspect in the November terrorist attacks that killed 130 people in Paris planned to blow himself up outside a soccer stadium, but changed his mind.

Salah Abdeslam was released from a Brussels hospital and taken to prison Saturday, a day after he and a suspected accomplice were shot during the police raid that captured them.

French prosecutor Francios Molins said Abdeslam's statement that he had backed down from killing himself at the stadium had to be taken with caution. He said Abdeslam was seen in a section of Paris that was not attacked that night.

Abdeslam's lawyer, Sven Mary, said his client was cooperating with Belgian police but would fight extradition to France.

The international police agency Interpol urged governments to be extra vigilant at their borders, saying Abdeslam's accomplices might try to flee Europe.

Interpol recommended that border control agents look out for stolen passports and faked travel documents.

French President Francois Hollande said the investigation revealed that many more people were involved in the attacks than authorities originally believed. He said the network spanned several countries.

After an emergency defense council meeting in Paris on Saturday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called Abdeslam's capture an important blow against Islamic State in Europe.

WATCH: Video footage of Salah Abdeslam's capture in Brussels

"Currently in police custody with four individuals, Salah Abdeslam will have to answer to French justice for his acts," Cazeneuve said. "The demand for justice is what all the families of the victims are waiting for, along with all other French citizens. The government is determined to get to the bottom of what happened."

He said the threat level in France remained extremely high and the country “must maintain the vigilance in proportion to the threat level."

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel called Friday's capture of Abdeslam "an important result in the battle for democracy."

Police captured Abdeslam in the Molenbeek area of Brussels after a four-month manhunt. Three other people were arrested during Friday’s raid. Prosecutors identified them as members of a family that had hid Abdeslam.

Abdeslam's exact whereabouts between the November 13 terror attack and this week were unclear. But police became certain he was in Brussels when they found evidence during a raid on another house while hunting for another suspect.

Abdeslam is suspected of helping others plot the attacks in Paris, including renting rooms for the terrorists and buying explosives.

Multiple targets were struck, including a concert hall, cafes and the soccer stadium.

Islamic State claimed responsibility, and Abdeslam's brother was among the suicide bombers. The attacks were prepared and coordinated, in part, in Brussels.

Eleven people have been arrested and charged in Belgium in connection with the killings. Eight are behind bars.

This combination of photos shows Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks, on the left, and suspect Salah Abdeslam, who remains at large. (2nd R),

This combination of photos shows Abdelhamid Abaaoud, suspected mastermind of the November 13, 2015, Paris attacks, on the left, and suspect Salah Abdeslam, who remains at large. (2nd R),

Paris Assailants, Suspects Where Are They Now?

Status: Captured

Name: Salah Abdeslam
Background: French national born in Belgium
Investigation: Considered eighth attacker; believed to be driver of car outside the Bataclan

Status: Dead

Name: Abdelhamid Abaaoud
Background: Belgian of Moroccan origin
Investigation: Ringleader of Paris attacks

Name: Ibrahim Abdeslam
Background: French citizen
Investigation: Suicide bomber at cafe on Boulevard Voltaire; brother of Salah Abdeslam

Name: Samy Amimour
Background: Born in Paris
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Bilal Hadfi
Status: Dead
Background: Nationality unknown, living in Belgium prior to attacks
Investigation: One of three suicide bombers at soccer stadium

Name: Ismael Omar Mostefai
Background: Chartres, France
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall

Name: Ahmad al Muhammad (falsified name)
Background: Unknown; emergency passport said he was from Syria
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; emergency passport found on his body

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at soccer stadium; carried falsified Turkish passport

Name: Unknown
Background: Unknown
Investigation: Suicide bomber at Bataclan concert hall; has not yet been identified

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