Paris attacks suspect Abdeslam ready to talk to authorities

PARIS attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam wants to co-operate with French authorities but only after he is he is extradited from Belgium to France, his lawyer said.

The sole surviving suspect of the November 13 Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed, Abdeslam was arrested in Brussels on March 18 after four months on the run.

The arrest was considered a rare success in Belgium's anti-terror fight, although he was found just metres from his family home and has refused to talk since the Brussels attacks despite having links to the attackers.

"I can confirm that Salah Abdeslam wants to be handed over to the French authorities," lawyer Cedric Moisse told reporters at an extradition hearing in Brussels. "I can also confirm that he wants to co-operate with the French authorities."

Abdeslam had previously told interrogators he had intended to blow himself up at the Stade de France stadium in Paris but had backed out at the last minute.

It is believed that he wanted to travel to Syria but was afraid of becoming a target in the IS heartland after failing in his suicide bombing mission.

The news that Abdeslam is ready to talk means that he will become a target for the Islamic State.

The Belgian government has said that Abdeslam had also been planning to target Brussels but one of his lawyers said last week that his client had no prior knowledge of the March 22 attacks in the Belgian capital.

Abdeslam has already been linked to at least two of the bombers. Khalid El Bakraoui, who blew himself up at the metro, rented a flat in Brussels where Abdeslam's fingerprints were found following a raid.
The second airport bomber, Najim Laachraoui, once drove to Hungary with Abdeslam.

A prosecutor was set to travel to the prison in the city of Bruges where Abdeslam is being held to discuss his extradition under a European arrest warrant.

Belgian federal prosecutors "do not object" to handing the suspect over to France, said spokesman Eric Van der Sypt.

A judge will rule this week on the extradition.

It comes as soldiers and police were seen taking part in the operation near a busy motorway in Courtrai in northwestern Belgium, the latest in a series of raids since the Paris and Brussels terror attacks exposed a tangled web of cross-border jihadist cells.

Its latest raid was linked to a new plot in France, in which the main suspect, Reda Kriket, was charged in France on Wednesday with membership of a terrorist organisation after police found an arsenal of weapons and explosives at his home.

"A raid is under way in connection with the (Reda) Kriket case," Van der Sypt said. He said it is taking place at Marke, in the town of Courtrai.

In what could signal improved security co-operation, several European countries have made arrests in recent days over the thwarted plot linked to 34-year-old Kriket.

Kriket was himself arrested near Paris last week and a police raid on his apartment netted a cache of assault rifles, handguns and TATP, the highly volatile homemade explosive favoured by IS jihadists.

Another French suspect, 32-year-old Anis Bahri, was arrested in Rotterdam in the Netherlands at the weekend in connection with the plot.

Two other suspects - Abderrahmane A., 38, and Rabah M., 34 - have been charged in Belgium accused of involvement in the same plot.