Suspected Paris bombing plotter Salah Abdeslam has told investigators that he was planning new operations from Brussels and possibly had access to several weapons, Belgium’s foreign minister said today.
Minister Didier Reynders said Abdeslam had claimed that “he was ready to restart something from Brussels, and it’s maybe the reality.”
Reynders gave credence to the suspect’s claim because “we found a lot of weapons, heavy weapons in the first investigations, and we have seen a new network of people around him in Brussels.”
Abdeslam, captured Friday in a police raid in Brussels, was charged yesterday with “terrorist murder” by Belgian authorities. He is a top suspect in the November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead.
Speaking to security experts at a German Marshall Fund conference in Brussels, Reynders said “we have found more than 30 people involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris, but we are sure that there are others.”
He urged European intelligence, law enforcement, and border authorities to exchange more information to help track the suspects down.
Interpol also has called on European countries to be vigilant at their borders, saying Abdeslam’s accomplices may try to flee after his capture. The international police agency recommended closer checks at borders, especially for stolen passports.
Many of the November 13 attackers and accomplices travelled on falsified or stolen documents.
Abdeslam’s Belgian lawyer, meanwhile, threatened to launch legal action tomorrow against a French prosecutor, accusing him of breaching the confidentiality of the investigation into the deadly rampage in Paris.
Sven Mary told Belgian public broadcaster RTBF that part of the press conference given yesterday by Paris prosecutor Francois Molins “is a violation. It’s a fault, and I cannot let it go unchallenged.”
Molins said Abdeslam, 26, told Belgian officials he had “wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France” as a suicide bomber, but that he backed out at the last minute.
France is seeking Abdeslam’s extradition for trial there, but Mary said he would fight any attempt to hand over his client and that investigators have much to learn from the suspect, who was born in Belgium but has French and Moroccan nationality.
“Salah is of great importance to this investigation. I would even say that he is worth gold. He is cooperating, he is communicating, he is not insisting on his right to silence. I think it would be worthwhile now to give things a bit of time ... for investigators to be able to talk to him,” Mary said.
In response, an official in the Paris prosecutor’s office said French law allows prosecutors to speak about elements of an investigation.