Abdeslam cleared for France extradition

Images of Salah AbdeslamImage copyright
Belgian/French police

Image caption

Abdeslam is also being questioned about the Brussels attacks

A court in Brussels has approved the extradition to France of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in November’s Paris attacks.

Abdeslam, who was arrested earlier this month in central Brussels, had agreed to be transferred.

The 26-year-old was detained after apparently hiding in the Belgian capital for more than four months.

His arrest, in a dramatic police operation, came four days before bomb attacks in Brussels killed 32 people.

Belgian and French authorities will now consider how to go ahead with the extradition, the federal prosecutor’s office says.

However, the transfer may take several weeks as Abdeslam – a French national, born in Belgium – is also wanted for questioning in connection with the Brussels bombings.

Police believe the same militant network was behind attacks in both cities.

After his arrest, Abdeslam was initially questioned over his alleged role in the Paris attacks.

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Abdeslam was arrested in the Molenbeek area of Brussels

But after last week’s suicide bombings in the Belgian capital, he then exercised his right to silence.

“As Salah Abdeslam had declared to agree to be transferred to France, a federal magistrate took his formal declaration today,” the prosecutor’s office said. “The transfer is possible.”

Earlier, a lawyer for Abdeslam, Cedric Moisse, said his client had dropped his initial objection to being extradited. “He wishes to co-operate with the French authorities,” he added.

Prosecutors have said that Abdeslam admitted planning to blow himself up in the Paris attacks but changed his mind.

Salah Abdeslam – from petty crook to Islamist

  • Born 15 September 1989 in Brussels
  • In his teens, he and two brothers get into trouble with police for drug trafficking
  • Transport technician for STIB from 2009-11 but fired for poor timekeeping
  • Jailed briefly for burglary in 2010 with Abdelhamid Abbaoud, the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, who went to the same Molenbeek school
  • In 2013 managed “Les Beguines” bar in Molenbeek with brother Brahim; the bar was shut down in 2015
  • Briefly detained by Dutch police in February 2015, fined €70 (£49) for possession of cannabis
  • Both brothers placed on police list in 2015 for links to Islamist fighters in Syria

Abdeslam has links to at least two of the Brussels bombers.

His fingerprints were found in a flat rented by Khalid el-Bakraoui, who blew himself up on the metro on 22 March.

Investigators say Najim Laachraoui, named as one of the two Brussels airport bombers, was stopped by police in a car with Abdeslam on the Hungarian border with Austria in September.

French officials have meanwhile said that a French national arrested in Paris last week was planning an imminent attack of “extreme violence”.

Reda Kriket, 34, has been linked to the suspected ringleader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Both the Paris and Brussels attacks have been claimed by so-called Islamic State.

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