Paris attacks: Salah Abdeslam 'changed suicide bomb plan'
- 19 March 2016
- From the section Europe
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam has admitted he wanted to blow himself up but then changed his mind, a French prosecutor says.
Abdeslam has been charged with terrorism offences in Belgium a day after he was seized in a dramatic raid.
Abdeslam will fight extradition to France but has been co-operating with police, his lawyer says.
The Paris attacks in November left 130 people dead and dozens injured.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) group said it was behind the bombings and shootings.
Abdeslam is charged with participation in terrorist murder and the activities of a terrorist group, Belgium's federal prosecutor's office says.
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference: "Salah Abdeslam today during questioning by [Belgian] investigators affirmed that, and I quote, 'he wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and that he had backed down'."
Abdeslam's assertions should be treated with caution, he added.
The 26-year-old French national, born in Belgium, is in custody following his arrest in Brussels on Friday after four months on the run.
Investigators hope Abdeslam, who was shot in the leg during his arrest, will reveal more information about the IS network behind the Paris attacks, its financing and plans.
They believe he helped with logistics, including renting rooms and driving suicide bombers to the Stade de France.
Abdeslam is believed to have fled shortly after the attacks, returning to the Molenbeek district of Brussels.
Interpol has meanwhile urged "extra vigilance" at borders following Friday's Brussels raid, saying more accomplices may try to flee Europe.
The subject of a massive manhunt, Salah Abdeslam was arrested about 500m (1,600ft) from his home in Molenbeek. His brother, Brahim, was one of the Paris attackers, who blew himself up.
Another man arrested at the same time as Salah Abdeslam on Friday, Monir Ahmed Alaaj, has also been charged with participation in terrorist murder and the activities of a terrorist group, the Belgian prosecutors say.
Friday's raid also saw three members of a family detained.
They include Abid Aberkan, described as a friend of Abdeslam, who has been charged with participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation and harbouring criminals.
Another family member, identified as Djemila M, has been charged with harbouring criminals, but is not in custody, the prosecutor's office says.
Abid Aberkan's mother, Sihane, has been freed and faces no charges.
The raid came after Abdeslam's fingerprints were found in a flat in another Brussels district, Forest, raided on Tuesday.
Dramatic footage showed Abdeslam being bundled into a police car on Friday after a volley of gunfire. Alaaj was also injured during the arrests, but both suspects were discharged from hospital on Saturday.
French President Francois Hollande said Abdeslam's arrest was "an important moment".
"The battle against terrorism does not end tonight, even though this is a victory," Mr Hollande told a news conference on Friday with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
"We must catch all those who allowed, organised or facilitated these attacks and we realise that they are a lot more numerous than we thought earlier and had identified," he said.
Prosecutors said Alaaj had travelled with Abdeslam to Germany last October, where his fingerprints were taken during an identity check.
A false Syrian passport in Alaaj's name and Belgian identity papers under an alias were found in a flat in Forest raided on Tuesday.
More details have meanwhile emerged about an Algerian national, Mohamed Belkaid, shot dead in Tuesday's raid.
Associated Press says it has been passed documents by the Syrian opposition news site, Zaman al-Wasl, suggesting he joined IS in 2014 and asked to be a suicide bomber.
Belgian investigators say he is likely to have been an associate of Abdeslam.
Along with the Stade de France, the Paris bombings and shootings targeted the Bataclan concert hall and bars and restaurants.
Officials have identified most of the people they believe to have carried out the assaults and on Friday Mr Hollande predicted that more arrests could follow.
Most of the suspects either died during the attacks or were killed in subsequent police raids.