Salah Abdeslam was captured in Brussels suburb just 500 meters from his home
He's been described as Europe's most wanted man. Salah Abdeslam, the prime surviving suspect of November's Paris attacks, is now in police custody. He tells prosecutors he wanted to blow himself up in the French capital but changed his mind.
It was thought he may have escaped to Syria. But after months on the run Abdeslam was tracked down to Molenbeek, the same Brussels suburb where several investigations into the Paris attacks have already been conducted. Participating in the assault on the French capital were suicide bombers who were born and grew up in this neighbourhood. The area is known as a hotbed of jihadism.
Abdeslam, a French national, is currently at a high-security prison in Bruges. Along with a second man also arrested during police raids, he stands accused of "participation in terrorist murder". His lawyer confirms he was in Paris last year on November 13. Prosecutors state he was supposed to be a suicide bomber.
Francois Molins, Paris Prosecutor: "Salah Abdeslam today, during questioning by Belgian investigators, affirmed that, and I quote, 'he wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and that he had backed down'. His first statements, which we must take with precaution, leave unanswered a series of questions on which Salah Abdeslam will have to explain"
The most pressing issue now surrounding Abdeslam is the question of extradition to France. His lawyer is so far refusing. But under pressure at home to deliver justice, the rendition is being demanded by President Francois Hollande.
Francois Molins, Paris Prosecutor: "The delivery of Salah Abdeslam as part of ongoing investigations in France is, I know, a particularly strong hope for the families of those 130 people who died and the hundreds of others who were injured, all of whom are looking to understand, and along with all of us, magistrates and investigators, are hoping for the truth to be revealed."
But in Brussels the Belgian Prime minister is issuing a note of caution. He says judicial cooperation with Paris will remain at its maximum level but warns that getting Abdeslam to France could take several weeks. Charles Michel is hailing the arrest of the 26-year-old as a great step forward in the fight againt terrorism.
Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister: "We realise that yesterday we might have won an important battle for democracy, for freedom, respect, tolerance, values and also probably for justice, but we realise that we have not won the war, we know very well that there is still a lot of work to do."
Belgian police are optimistic the arrest of Abdeslam will help them disrupt other militant cells. In Paris meanwhile, where memorials to November 13 still stand, many are expressing relief. They hope the capture of the last surviving attacker will finally shed light on the motives and methods of those who President Hollande described as carrying out an ‘act of war'.