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Main Paris attacks suspect apologizes

April 15, 2022

The last surviving alleged attacker, Salah A., said he hoped his apology would help the relatives of those killed. One hundred and thirty people were killed in the atrocities claimed by the "Islamic State" armed group.

A sketch image of Salah Abdeslam on trial in Paris
A sketch image of Salah Abdeslam, the lone surviving member of the group behind the 2015 Paris attacksImage: Benoit Peyrucq/AFP/dpa/picture alliance

Salah A., the main defendant in the trial over the November 2015 Paris attacks, apologized on Friday to the victims and their families for the atrocities.

One hundred and thirty people were killed in suicide bombings and shootings at the Stade de France stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and on street terraces of bars and restaurants in France's worst peacetime atrocity.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia claimed responsibility for the attacks and 20 people are currently on trial in Paris.

Surviving the Bataclan attack

What did Salah A. say?

"I wish to express my condolences and offer an apology to all the victims," Salah A, told the court at the end of his trial testimony.

"I know that hatred remains... I ask you today that you hate me with moderation," he said, adding: "I ask you to forgive me."

One of his defense lawyers, Olivia Ronen, during cross-examination of her client, asked if he did not regret carrying out his plan.

"I don't regret it. I didn't kill these people and I didn't die," Salah A. replied. "I would like to say today that this story of November 13 was written with the blood of the victims. It is their story, and I was part of it," he added.  

"They are linked to me and I am linked to them," he said in a quivering voice, before issuing his apology.

Addressing the wounded and those who lost loved ones: "I know this (the apology) is not going to heal you ... But if it can do you any good, if I could do any good for one of the victims, then for me it's a victory."

Who is Salah A.?

The 32-year-old Salah A. has been on trial since September along with 19 other suspects, alleged to have helped to plan and carry out Paris' deadliest ever peacetime attack.

While his co-defendants are answering charges ranging from providing logistical support, as well as supplying weapons, prosecutors say Salah A. is the sole surviving assailant of the atrocities and is accused of murder as part of a terrror group.

On the day of the attacks, Salah A. previously told the court he dropped off three attackers in a car, who then blew themselves up on the forecourt of the Stade de France moments after a France-Germany football match kick-off.

Salah A. said he had planned to blow himself up in a crowded bar but stopped after seeing the people whom he was about to kill.

"The objective I was given was to go to a cafe in the 18th" district in northern Paris, he previously told the special Paris court hearing the case.

"I'm going into the cafe, I'm ordering a drink, I'm looking at the people around me — and I said to myself: 'No, I'm not going to do it'," he added.

He said he took the metro across Paris to hide his explosives belt in the southern suburb of Montrouge.

At one point, he told the court he felt "ashamed" after failing to detonate his belt on November 13, 2015, and lied to his co-attackers that the belt had not worked.

Prosecutors believe that the belt had malfunctioned. However, another defendant, Mohamed A, told the trial this week that Salah A. simply had not had the nerve to go through with the attack.

"He was exhausted, tired, he looked pale," Mohamed A. said of Salah A. when he turned up at a safe house a day after the attacks.

Mohamed A. is accused of having provided weapons and logistical support to the attackers.

After surviving the attack, Salah A. fled to the Molenbeek district of Brussels. He was captured in March 2016.

Editor's note: DW follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases. 

mm/kb (AFP, AP)