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CRIME

Paris attacks suspect says he changed his mind at last moment

The last surviving suspected assailant in the deadly 2015 Paris attacks has told a court that he was sent to a café in the 18th arrondissement of the city, but at the last minute changed his mind about going through with the attack.

A court-sketch of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks on November 13, 2015.
A court-sketch of Salah Abdeslam, the prime suspect in the Paris terror attacks on November 13, 2015. (Image: Benoit Peyrucq / AFP)

“The objective I was given was to go to a café in the 18th” district in northern Paris, Salah Abdeslam told the special Paris court hearing the case. “I’m going into the café, I’m ordering a drink, I’m looking at the people around me – and I said to myself: ‘No, I’m not going to do it’.”

For the plaintiffs in the case, including the loved ones of victims of the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 people, this was testimony they had been waiting months to hear.

Abdeslam, 32, said he was told about plans for the attack in Paris on November 11th, two days before they were carried out.

That happened at a meeting in Charleroi, Belgium, with Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who is accused of having masterminded the attacks.

Until then, said Abdeslam, he thought he was going to be sent to Syria. Instead, he was told he had been chosen to carry out an attack using an explosive belt.

“It was a shock for me, but he ended up by convincing me,” he said.

“I ended up accepting and saying, ‘Okay, I’ll go ahead with it’.”

But at that meeting, he was given no details about the targets for the attack.

When he ultimately did not go through with the attack, he told the court how he took his car and drove around Paris at random until it broke down.

Then he got out and walked, he said, saying his memories of that period were “confused”.

Pressed by the president of the court Jean-Louis Peries, he said only that he knew what he had been supposed to do.

“My brother, he had a belt, a Kalashnikov, I know he’s going to open fire, I know he’s going to blow himself up, but I didn’t know the targets.”

The attackers killed 130 people in suicide bombings and shootings at the Stade de France stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and on street terraces of bars and restaurants on November 13th, 2015, in France’s worst peacetime atrocity.

Abdeslam’s older brother Brahim opened fire on a cafe terrace before blowing himself up.

Earlier in court another defendant, Mohamed Abrini, said Abdeslam simply had not had the nerve to go through with the attack.

Abrini, who is accused of having provided weapons and logistical support to the attackers, said he had seen Abdeslam when he turned up at a safe house a day after the attacks.

“He was exhausted, tired, he looked pale,” said Abrini.

One of the organisers of the attacks had yelled at him for not having blown himself up.

“I think he told them that his belt hadn’t worked,” said Abrini.

Abdeslam told the court last month that in fact he had been lying about the malfunction.

After surviving the attack, Abdeslam fled to the Molenbeek district of Brussels where he grew up. He was captured in March 2016.

Alongside Abdeslam, co-defendants are answering charges ranging from providing logistical support to planning the attacks, as well as supplying weapons.

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CRIME

French police shoot dead knife-wielding man at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

French Border police at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris shot - and killed - man who was wielding a knife in the public area of the airport on Wednesday.

French police shoot dead knife-wielding man at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Border police reportedly shot a man with aggressive behaviour who brandished a knife in the public area of the Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris, on Wednesday morning, police and airport sources told AFP.

“This morning officers neutralised a threatening individual in possession of a knife at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport,” the Paris police department said on its Twitter account.

A source close to the investigation told BFMTV that the man – who was likely homeless – went towards the officers, despite being asked several times to put the knife down. In response, police shot the man in the abdomen, and the individual later died.

The incident took place in the busy, public area of terminal 2F around 8:20 am, when “a homeless man started bothering security agents and border police were called in to remove him”.

Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife, when one of the officers fired his weapon.

An AFP photographer who witnessed the scene said “a large person of colour brandished something that looked like a knife at the police”.

“He was ordered to stop but kept advancing toward them, and an officer fired a single shot.”

The man was quickly put on a stretcher and evacuated, the photographer said. 

Security forces have been on high alert for terrorist attacks since a wave of jihadist killings that have killed more than 250 people since 2015, often by so-called “lone wolves” who often target police.

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