Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the last surviving member of the terror gang that killed 130 people in Paris five months ago, was formally charged in a Paris court Wednesday with murder, kidnapping, and using bombs and deadly weapons.
The 26-year-old Moroccan-born suspect was ordered held in solitary confinement until May 20. His lawyer said Abdeslam would answer the charges against him, but that he was too disoriented by his abrupt, early-morning extradition from Belgium to speak in court.
Abdeslam is believed to have had a leading role in planning and preparing for the Paris attacks on Nov. 13. Suicide bombers armed with automatic weapons attacked a sports stadium, a concert hall and nightspots in the French capital, firing on those around them before detonating their explosives-filled vests.
Media accounts said Abdeslam wore a suicide vest on that fateful Friday night, along with his brother and other gunmen, but apparently changed his mind at the last minute, discarding the explosives that were meant to kill him before fleeing. He is thought to be the only survivor among the gang that attacked Paris; all the others either blew themselves up or were killed by police.
Abdeslam had been on the run since November, but was arrested last month in Brussels — four days before bombings that killed 32 people in the Belgian capital, at an airport terminal and aboard a subway train.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks in both Paris and Brussels.
A French lawyer representing Abdeslam, Frank Berton, said his client is a broken man.
"He wants to explain and, I think, collaborate with the French justice," Berton told France's BFM TV before Wednesday's court hearing.
Abdeslam is believed to have played a key logistical role in the Paris attacks that included renting cars and at least one safe house for the assailants. He fled the French capital hours after the attacks, getting friends to pick him up and drive him back to Brussels.
Targeting Paris nightspots including the Bataclan concert hall, along with a soccer stadium outside the capital, the November attacks killed 130 people and injured more than 300.
"We're relieved" at Abdeslam's transfer to France, said Georges Salines, president of November 13 Brotherhood and Truth, a group made up of Paris attack survivors and their families.
"We want Salah Abdeslam to be tried for his personal responsibility in the November 13 attacks. He played an active role. And he knows many things, so he has a lot of things to tell investigators about the operation," Salines, whose daughter was killed in the attacks, added in an interview.
Abdeslam also faces charges of attempted murder in Belgium, related to his alleged role in a shootout with police. His cross-border defense team will consist of Berton, another French lawyer, and Sven Mary, a well-known lawyer in Belgium.
Mary gave a derogatory account of his client in an interview published Tuesday in France's Liberation newspaper. Using a pejorative phrase most kindly translated as "little idiot," Mary said Abdeslam was a petty criminal who lived in a world of video games and whose Islamic faith derived from interpretations of the Quran that he read on the internet.
"He has the intelligence of an empty ashtray," Mary added.