Abdeslam slipped from role to role with ease

2016-03-19 18:42
Salah Abdeslam. (AP)

Salah Abdeslam. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Beardless, with short-cropped hair and a mild manner, Salah Abdeslam slipped from one world to another as easily as he slipped for four months through an international dragnet.

The fugitive who evaded several close calls with police - until he was caught on Friday in the neighbourhood where he grew up - remains one of the biggest mysteries among the men who brazenly attacked Paris cafés and restaurants, a noted concert hall and France's main sports stadium on November 13, killing 130 people.

He is thought to have served as the logistics man, renting rooms, shopping for detonators and driving at least one of the killers from Brussels to Paris. It remains unclear whether he was meant to become an attacker himself.

Abdeslam, 26, is a French citizen who lived in the Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels, the low-income quarter of mainly Moroccan immigrant families and home to most of the at least nine attackers.

His links to the others involved in the plot ran deep. One of his two brothers, Brahim, blew himself up outside the stadium. His childhood friend Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the suspected ringleader of the bloodbath.

Four days after the attacks, Mohamed Abdeslam, the third brother, said the three siblings grew up normally, seemingly content with life in Europe.

"We are an open-minded family. We never had any problems with justice," he said. "You have to understand that we have a family, we have a mother and he remains her child."

Brothers Brahim and Salah ran a family café in Molenbeek - which police closed down not long before the attacks on suspicion of drug dealing there. The café served alcohol, forbidden in the Muslim religion, but that apparently posed no problem for the two young men. Just like the partying that Brahim's friends told The Associated Press their friend did, and reports said Salah did, too.

Unanswered questions

Since the attacks, Abdeslam has been a man on the run who left a trail of unanswered questions in his wake and - for a time - outwitted the biggest manhunt in Europe.

In the immediate aftermath, an apparently stranded Abdeslam called his contacts in Brussels to come and fetch him. On their return the following day, the group managed to get through a police checkpoint after a standard stop. Some Belgian media reported that Abdeslam was smuggled out of a house in Molenbeek two days after the attacks under the noses of police - a report never proven. "All we know is that when we came, he wasn't there," Belgian prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said recently.

Abdeslam was registered in an information system used by many European countries on suspicion of unidentified criminal activity. But when he was stopped four days before the attacks at a routine traffic check as he and two companions drove from Germany to Austria, the group was waved on their way after saying they were heading to Vienna for a vacation.

Abdeslam slipped from role to role with ease, seamlessly orchestrating transitions from regular neighbourhood guy to the suspected logistician behind the attacks. But he may have missed a few beats. A suicide vest was found near where his cellphone was last detected in Montrouge, the Paris suburb where he awaited rescue by friends after the attacks. And the Clio he drove to Paris with some attackers was found abandoned in northern Paris, in a district where the Islamic State group said in its claim of responsibility that an attack had occurred. It never did.

In January, the Islamic State group published an online photo tribute to the extremists who killed in Paris. But someone was missing from the photo display in Dabiq, the ISIS propaganda magazine: Abdeslam. Belgian jihadi watcher Pieter van Ostaeyen said this may be due to ISIS's desire to honour only those extremists who it believes died as martyrs.

Read more on:    salah abdeslam  |  belgium  |  france  |  paris under attack

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.