Wounded in silence: Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the jihadist commandos of 13 November 2015, again refused on Tuesday to answer questions from the anti-terrorist magistrate in charge of investigating the Paris and Saint-Denis bombings.
The key suspect of the attacks, which killed 130 people, was extracted early in the morning from his cell in Fleury-Mérogis (south of Paris).
For the fourth time since April, he “refused to answer the questions” of the judge, it was learned from a judicial source.
He did not seek the assistance of a lawyer, according to this source. Abdeslam, whose two lawyers had renounced in October to defend him, may choose to defend himself alone until his possible trial before a court of assizes where he must be mandatorily represented.
After four months in Brussels, Abdeslam was arrested in Belgium on 18 March. He was transferred to France on 27 April and charged for terrorist killings.
On 12 October, his lawyers, Frenchman Frank Berton and Belgian Sven Mary, announced that they had renounced their defense, having “the conviction that he would not speak”. According to them, the conditions of detention of their former client, placed in isolation and under video surveillance 24/24, explain his silence to the judges.
Salah Abdeslam tried unsuccessfully to suspend this video-surveillance device, unpublished in France, but the Council of State considered in July that “the exceptional nature of the terrorist acts” for which it is prosecuted “implied that all precautions were taken “.
For his former lawyer Sven Mary, we have created “a mutism (…) but the real victims in all this is the victims of the attacks of Paris, because they have right to this truth”.
– central role in the formation of commandos –
Shadowy areas still surround the exact role of Abdeslam on the night of the attacks.
After having transported the three kamikazes of the Stade de France, he parked in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, seems to have wandered, before being exfiltered by two friends come to seek him from Belgium. He abandoned an explosive belt, suggesting that he should also carry out a suicide attack while his accomplices were killing on coffee terraces or in the Bataclan concert hall.
Close to the Belgian Abdelhamid Abaaoud, alleged coordinator of the attacks, Abdeslam was also a logistician of 13 November, renting vehicles and hovers in the Paris region, buying remote triggers and a component of the TATP, the explosive used in suicide bombers’ belts.
He had finally “a central role” in the formation of the commandos, according to the investigators, having convoyed through Europe ten jihadists from the Iraqi-Syrian combat zones, most suspected of being involved in the killings Paris and Brussels on 22 March, according to a note by the Hungarian intelligence services, revealed by the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, and by the investigative elements of the French judges.
Despite his lack of collaboration, the investigation is progressing: an alleged organizer, operating from Syria, of the attacks, has been identified. It is the Belgo-Moroccan Osama Atar, 32 years old, veteran of the jihad, to join the group Islamic State. He is suspected of having attacked two of the assailants of Paris, and the commando spotted before being able to join France and stopped in December 2015 in Austria.