Prime Paris attacks suspect can be extradited to France

BRUSSELS -- Belgian authorities agreed on Thursday that Salah Abdeslam, a prime suspect in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, can be extradited to France where he has promised to cooperate in the investigation into the attacks that killed 130 people.

After his four-month flight from the law ended on March 18, Abdeslam officially confirmed that he will not fight his transfer back to Paris.

"The transfer is authorized," a statement from the state prosecutor's office said. Abdeslam's lawyer, Cedric Moisse, said that is client "would like to cooperate with the French authorities. This is his will and this is the word he wants everybody to hear."

Abdeslam is accused of helping to plan and execute the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. After crossing back into Belgium the day after the attacks, he was Europe's No. 1 fugitive until Belgian authorities caught him, four days ahead of the Brussels attacks.

The capture of Abdeslam came after Belgian authorities said they found his fingerprints in an apartment raided earlier that week in another Brussels neighborhood.

In that raid, a man believed to have been an accomplice of Abdeslam -- Mohamed Belkaid -- was shot dead, Belgian prosecutors said. But two men escaped from the apartment, one of whom appeared to have been Abdeslam.

Federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt said it was possible Abdeslam had spent "days, weeks or months," in the apartment.

Most of the Paris attackers died on the night of the attacks, including Abdeslam's brother Ibrahim, who blew himself up.

Belgian and French authorities will now liaise on when and how the transfer could happen, which was unlikely to be pushed through immediately.

It was unclear to what extent or whether Abdeslam would be needed in the investigation of the March 22 Brussels attacks which killed 32 people.


In Paris, an official at the Paris prosecutor office said that Abdeslam, once transferred, will be immediately questioned by an anti-terrorist investigating judge and imprisoned.

Over a week after the March 22 attacks, soldiers searched a wooded and residential area close to the French border. Federal prosecutors said the action is linked to the recent arrest in Paris of Reda Kriket, who is accused of participating in a terrorist group with plans for at least one imminent attack, possessing and transporting arms and explosives, and holding fake documents.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Kriket is believed to have traveled to Syria in 2014 and 2015 and made several trips between France and Belgium.

At least three other people are in custody in the case in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Brussels airport authorities say they are ready to resume flights from the bomb-damaged facility soon but not before the weekend.

Belgium's civil aviation authority and the fire department have given their approvals to a reopening following testing on Tuesday, one week after the suicide bombings.

Operating company Brussels Airport said in a statement Thursday that the airport is "technically ready for a restart of passenger flights in the temporary infrastructure foreseen for check-in."

Flights will resume once political approval to reopen is granted, but not before Friday evening. Due to the damage, the airport will be able to run only at 20 percent of normal capacity.