The sole surviving suspect in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, refused to go ahead with plans to blow himself up on the night of the killings, his brother says. Abdeslam has offered to cooperate with investigators.
Mohamed Abdeslam told Belgian media that his brother "voluntarily chose not to blow himself up" on November 13, when extremists killed 130 people in a series of suicide bombings and shootings in Paris.
"If I wanted, there would have been more victims," Salah Abdeslam told his brother from prison in northern Belgium, according to the Belgian media chain BFMTV. "Luckily, I did not follow through."
Police in Brussels arrested Salah Abdeslam on March 18 after a four-month manhunt. The 26-year-old, believed to be the only surviving attacker in the November attacks, will now be extradited to France. Abdeslam has exercised his right to remain silent for most of the time he has been in custody in Belgium, but this week his lawyer said he wanted to cooperate with French authorities.
Just four days after Abdeslam's arrest, 32 people were killed in bombings at Brussels Airport and a metro station. Police believe that those attacks were carried out by militants with links to the same "Islamic State" cell behind the attacks in Paris.
Abdeslam, a Belgian-born French national, reportedly told his brother that he hadn't been involved in the blasts in Brussels, but investigators say he has connections to at least two of the attackers. Abdeslam's fingerprints were found at the Brussels flat rented by Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at Maelbeek metro station. Police say one of the two airport bombers, Najim Laachraoui, drove to Hungary with Abdeslam in September.
nm/mkg (Reuters, AFP)