The main suspect on trial for the 2015 Paris terror attacks, Salah Abdeslam, on Wednesday told a court that he decided against blowing himself up as planned on the evening of November 13, 2015.
“I’m walking into this bar in the 18th [arrondissement], I’m ordering a drink, I’m looking at people around me, and I’m like, ‘no, I’m not going to do it.’ I gave up, I left, I took the car,” he said during the final hearing of his trial.
Abdeslam had refused to speak to the court during his hearing two weeks ago but broke his silence on Wednesday. “I’m going to explain myself because this is the last time I can do it. I’m going to do the best I can, I’m going to do my best,” he said after complaining about his portrayal in the media.
Abdeslam said he had been told about the plans for France by another member of the jihadist group behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. “He told me about blowing myself up and it was a shock. I was thinking of going to Syria. I didn’t feel ready,” Abdeslam said.
On the evening of November 13, Abdeslam abandoned the car in which he had transported three suicide bombers from the Stade de France. He said he was at that point still wearing his explosive belt, which he threw away shortly after.
Mohamed Abrini, known as the “man in the hat” after being caught on CCTV at Brussels’ Zaventem airport minutes before the March 2016 attacks, also answered questions from prosecutors in Paris. Abrini and Abdeslam will also face trial in a Belgian criminal court in the fall over their involvement in the Brussels attacks. That trial is expected to last at least nine months.
In 2015, gunmen targeted several sites in Paris, including the Bataclan concert hall and multiple bars across Paris, killing 131 people. Abdeslam was on the run for four months before he was arrested on March 18, just days before the Brussels attacks. He is accused of playing a key role in the attacks and is charged with murder, attempted murder and hostage-taking. He faces life in jail if found guilty.