A key indictee at the Paris attacks trial in 2015 said the coordinated killings were part of an Islamic State network war against France
PARIS – A key indictee at a trial for attacks in Paris in 2015 said on Wednesday that coordinated killings were retaliation for French airstrikes on the Islamic State group, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” because he admitted his role for the first time.
Salah Abdeslam, who was dressed in black and refused to take off his mask while speaking in a tailor-made courtroom, was silent during the investigation. Observers waited to see if they would offer any details during the trial.
Abdeslam was the only survivor of that cell, most of whose members were French or Belgians. After his suicide vest failed on the night of the attack, he fled to his hometown of Brussels.
On Wednesday, a screen in the courtroom showed a photo of a car that Abdeslam left in the north of Paris after leaving three suicide bombers at the national stadium. Abdeslam’s target was not clear, but when Islamic State claimed responsibility the next day, the statement alluded to an attack in the neighborhood where he left a car that never happened.
Two people whom Abdeslam invited to drive from Brussels to Paris during the night to pick him up are among the 20 on trial. The six are being tried in absentia.
Abdeslam, who was arrested several months after the attack, said the attacks were a response to French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. France was among the international coalition that emerged as extremists conquered vast territory in both countries.
“We fought against France, attacked France, targeted the civilian population. “There was nothing personal against them,” Abdeslam said. I know my statement may be shocking, but it is not about stabbing a knife deeper into a wound, but about being honest with those who suffer immense grief. “
The same network hit Brussels airport and the metro system in March 2016, killing another 32 people. Among those on trial in Paris is Mohammed Abrini, who left the city the night before the 2015 attack and took part in Brussels. He acknowledged his role on Wednesday.
“I recognize my participation … (but) in this evil that happened in France, I am neither a commander nor an architect. I did not provide logistical or financial assistance, “said Abrini.
The specter of the man who was the architect of the attack, the late Abdelhamid Abaaoud, loomed in the early days of the trial.
The courtroom saw him in a video fleeing to the subway. The investigator testified that during the attack, he talked on the phone with the attackers and with someone in Brussels.
Anti-terrorist investigators noticed Abaaoud in a video as he enters the Paris Metro with another of the armed assailants. They recognized Abaaoud by his fluorescent orange shoes – and that was a pivotal moment in the case.
“As soon as we see this video, it changes everything because we realize that at least two terrorists are still alive,” the investigator testified. His name was not made public, as is common in French anti-terrorism trials.
Abaaoud and the remaining attacker were killed days later in a police shooting and suicide bombing.
The same investigator also testified about the devastation officials felt as the attacks took place.
“The feeling we had that night in Bataclan was unsuccessful. … I’m not sure we had a way to prevent it all. But when we entered Bataclan, it was a feeling, ”he said.