Brussels / Belgium
Top Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, who was captured in a dramatic raid in Brussels, was to be questioned by Belgian police on Saturday ahead of his speedy transfer to France.
Following his release from hospital where he was treated for a slight gunshot wound to the leg sustained during his arrest, Abdeslam was to be quizzed over his role in the November 13 massacre which killed 130 people and was claimed by the IS group.
His arrest on Friday along with four other suspects in the gritty Molenbeek neighbourhood, was hailed by European and US leaders, with French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve saying it dealt a “major blow” to IS extremists operating in Europe.
Following the raid, French President Francois Hollande said he would push for the 26-year-old to be transferred to France as quickly as possible, and on Saturday morning he met with key cabinet ministers and security officials to discuss the next steps.
“The operations of the past week have enabled us to incapacitate several individuals who are clearly extremely dangerous and totally determined,” Cazeneuve said after the meeting.
The aim was now “to review operations that are under way and the fight against terrorist groups in France and Europe,” a member of Hollande’s entourage said.
Hollande, who was in Brussels for an EU summit when the raid took place, described Abdeslam as “directly linked to the preparation, the organisation and, unfortunately, the perpetration of these attacks”.
Abdeslam’s capture following a four-month manhunt was hailed by the Belgian press as restoring the country’s honour, tarnished by perceived intelligence and police blunders before and after the attacks which appear increasingly to have been planned and coordinated in Brussels.
“I hail the great success of Belgian security forces and compliment the high level of Belgian-French cooperation in the counter-terror fight,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Twitter.
Abdeslam, a Franco-Moroccan from Molenbeek, and an accomplice who was also wounded in the raid, were both released from hospital on Saturday, Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur said.