Paris Attackers Arrested – Possible Connections to Brussels Bombings

France, 24 Feb - 22 Mar 2016
Paris bomber Salah Abdeslam arrested – alleged ties to Brussels attacks ++ Saudi Arabian prince receives highest national award. by Katinka Koke
Paris bomber Salah Abdeslam arrested – alleged ties to Brussels attacks

125 days after the Paris bombings Salah Abdeslam was arrested in Molenbeek, Brussels, for his participation in the terror attacks in November 2015. His lawyer confirmed that he had been present at the time in Paris and had planned a suicide attack at the Stade de France. However, he had changed his mind at the last minute. Abdeslam was supposedly involved in the planning and providing logistical support.

After having been shot in the leg and treated in hospital, Salah is currently in prison in Bruges, Belgium, as the prison has a special section for high-profile prisoners, with specially trained guards. Its cells have double doors, and furniture or equipment is attached to the floor. France has requested his transfer to France which is supposed to happen within three months.

But people are curious to know and understand who the person behind the now well-known face, “the most wanted” for crimes by the Europol, Salah Abdeslam is. Son of parents born in Algeria with French nationality and of Moroccan ethnicity, he was born in Brussels in 1989 and grew up there. He was known to the authorities for drug dealing and theft. His friends knew him as someone whom you can never reach, neither via phone or Facebook and was constantly away travelling .

Abdeslam and his brother managed a bar named Les Béguines, which was closed when authorities discovered that is dealt with hallucinogenic substances. Abdeslam and his brother sold the bar about six weeks before the attacks.

The French people and authorities have expressed different reactions, such as reproaches to Belgian authorities for only being able to find and arrest Salah Abdeslam after four months search, for not having detected his terrorist activities earlier and for being not sufficiently reactive against the terrorism cell in the whole country. Apparently, a large pizza order had alerted the authorities that the flat which is situated not even 500 m away from the flat in which Salah Abdeslam grew up, was occupied by more than just the owner.

On 22nd March, Brussels was shocked by two bombings, one at the airport and another in the metro. More than 30 people died. The attacks are thought to be a reaction to the capture of Salah Abdeslam.
Francois Hollande reacted immediately and scheduled a crisis meeting. He spoke to the public, saying that Europe was a target for terrorists, but it concerned the whole world. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that Europe was at war with terrorism and also refered to the previous attacks on the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Twitter. The French Minister of Finance, Michel Sapin, has accused Belgian politicians of being naive. Soon after the news of the attacks broke, security was increased, particularly at French airports and railway stations and the French public expressed solidarity both with the Belgian citizens as well as with the families of the victims on social media.

Saudi Arabian prince receives highest national award.

During a recent visit to the official residence of the French President “Elysée”, French President François Hollande awarded Mohammed Ben Nayef, Minister of Interior and heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, the légion d’honneur, the highest distinction in France. However, the president’s public relations team did not inform the public or media of this foreseen meeting.

Many criticised Hollande for this move, especially human rights activists, indication that the Saudi Arabian government had conducted 70 executions in 2016 only. One year earlier, a total of 153 people were executed for reasons such as terrorism, murder, rape, drug traffic and armed. In addition, the role of women in Saudi Arabia remains critical and gender equality couldn’t yet be established. The French people have shown a lack of understanding for the president’s decision to attribute the distinction for the prince’s efforts in the fight against terrorism.

France has previously concluded weapon contracts and collaborates with Saudi Arabia in Syria in fighting the Islamic State.

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