Paris Attack Suspect Salah Abdeslam Has Escaped To Syria, French Intelligence Says
One source close to investigations into the Paris attacks has told CNN that French intelligence officials believe Salah Abdeslam may have escaped to Syria. Abdeslam was one of two brothers and eight total suspects involved in orchestrating and carrying out the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. The investigation source told the network that the possibility that he had escaped became more realistic last week when Ali Oulkadi, a childhood friend of the Abdeslams, told investigators that he picked up Abdeslam and a friend at a subway stop in Brussels the day after the attacks.
Oulkadi's lawyer, Olivier Martins, told investigators that Oulkadi did not recognize Abdeslam immediately because he was wearing a cap. Abdeslam got into Oulkadi's car and told Oulkadi that his brother, Ibrahim, had blown himself up in the Paris attacks. "For my client, a childhood friend of the two brothers, it was a shock," Martins told CNN. "He could not understand it and could not think clearly." Oulkadi also described Abdeslam as "particularly nervous," according to the Daily Mail.
Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said Abdeslam may have dropped off suicide bombers at the Stade de France and then drove to another neighborhood in Paris, according to CNN. Molins said Abdeslam's fingerprints were found inside of a car police later found abandoned outside of Paris. Le Parisien also reported Saturday that Abdeslam reportedly purchased electronic detonators for the suicide bombers at a firework store north of Paris, according to the International Business Times. Later, just after the attacks, Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou, described as "acquaintances" of Abdeslam, allegedly drove to Paris to pick up Abdeslam and then took him back to Brussels, according to CNN. Abdeslam allegedly told them that his car had broken down.
Previous reports said that the trio may 'have been stopped by authorities at the French-Belgian border and then released, but it's unclear if that information still fits investigators' timeline, according to the Daily Mail. CNN reported that after Attou and Amri allegedly dropped Abdeslam off in Brussels, Oulkadi picked him and a friend up, and the three stopped at a cafe in the Brussels municipality of Schaerbeek.
Investigators arrested Attou, Amri, and Oulkadi were among six people arrested by Belgian authorities during the mass raids just after the attacks, on Nov. 14, according to CNN. Amri and Attou have been charged with terrorism offenses, but their lawyers say they were unaware of Abdeslam's involvement in the Paris attacks. Oulkadi will be detained in Belgium for another 30 days, but Martins told CNN that Oulkadi was innocent:
He was in Brussels during the evening of Friday, November 13th, has no criminal record and is absolutely not radicalized. When he learned that Salah was wanted, he should have gone to the police and told his story, but he was scared and didn't get the right advice at the time.
It's still unclear how Abdeslam made it from Brussels to Syria or what evidence there is that Abdeslam made it all the way to Syria.