Europe

Paris attacks: Suspect Mohamed Bakkali extradited from Belgium

Rescuers and police stand by on Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire near the Bataclan concert hall in central Paris Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The attacks in Paris in November 2015 left 130 dead

Belgian authorities have extradited to France Mohamed Bakkali, a key suspect in the deadly attacks in Paris in 2015.

The 30-year-old is believed to have rented the Brussels apartment used by some of the attackers.

Meanwhile, a man who lent his flat to two of the jihadists has repeated in a Paris court that he did not know them.

"No one told me that I was sheltering terrorists," 31-year-old Jawad Bendaoud said. This is the first trial linked to the attacks that left 130 dead.

Mr Bendaoud is charged with harbouring the ringleader of the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, and his accomplice Chakib Akrouh in his apartment in Saint-Denis following the killings.

"I swear on the head of my son that I didn't know they were terrorists," a tearful Mr Bendaoud told a packed court.

French media said he appeared to be nervous and confused and that the hearing had some "surreal moments", including when:

  • He tried to convince judges that he did not know the identities of the tenants by saying: "I was sold a beef bourguignon, I end up with a couscous"
  • He detailed his relationship with drugs by citing a nursery rhyme
  • He rejected any involvement with the attackers and said: "I love life too much, I love women too much"

The Islamic State group said it was behind the November 2015 attacks on the national stadium, bars and restaurants in the city, as well as the Bataclan concert venue.

Abaaoud, a Belgian national, was later killed in a police raid on the flat while Akrouh blew himself up.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Jawad Bendaoud is pictured in a courtroom sketch inside the Palais de Justice

The court will decide whether Mr Bendaoud actively conspired to help them or whether he became involved unknowingly. If convicted, he faces up to six years in prison.

Two other men are also on trial - Mr Bendaoud's friend Mohamed Soumah, who is accused of acting as an intermediary, and Youssef Aitboulahcen, the brother of a woman killed in the police raid on the flat.

Mr Aitboulahcen said his sister was "psychologically unstable". She was, he added, addicted to cannabis and cocaine and drank alcohol while also wearing a full Islamic veil.

The only surviving alleged perpetrator, Salah Abdeslam, goes on trial in Belgium in February on charges relating to his arrest there in 2016. He is not expected to go on trial in France until 2020 at the earliest.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The trial is being closely followed by some survivors and the media

Salah Abdelslam is believed to have sought refuge in one of the apartments rented by Mohamed Bakkali with false names.

Mr Bakkali was arrested in Belgium shortly after the November attacks. Two years ago, a court agreed to extradite him to France provided that, if he was found guilty, he would serve any sentence in Belgium.

Investigators have also linked him to the planning of an attack on a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in August 2015. The attack was foiled when four passengers wrestled the armed suspect to the ground.

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