Death of 130 “nothing personal”

Death of 130 “nothing personal”

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PARIS (AP) – Key accused in 2015 Paris bombings trial said on Wednesday the coordinated killings were retaliation for French airstrikes against ISIS, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” as he recognized his role for the first time. time.

Salah Abdeslam, who wore all black and refused to remove his mask as he spoke in a custom-built courtroom, remained silent throughout the investigation. Observers were waiting to see if he would offer details during the trial.

Nine gunmen from the Islamic State group and suicide bombers shot down minutes apart in several locations around Paris on November 13, 2015, targeting fans of the national football stadium and coffee lovers and ending with a bath of blood inside the Bataclan concert hall. It was the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II and one of the worst terrorist attacks to hit the West, shaking the country’s sense of security and rewriting its policy.

Abdeslam is the only survivor of this cell, most of the members of which were French or Belgian. After his suicide jacket malfunctioned the night of the attacks, he fled to his hometown of Brussels.

On Wednesday, a screen in the courtroom showed a photo of the car Abdeslam abandoned in northern Paris after dropping off the three suicide bombers at the national stadium. Abdeslam’s target was unclear, but when ISIS claimed responsibility the next day, the statement hinted at an attack in the neighborhood where he left the car that never happened.

The two people called by Abdeslam to drive at night from Brussels to Paris to pick him up are among the 20 judged. Six of them are tried in absentia.

Abdeslam, who was arrested months after the attacks, said the killings were a response to French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. France was part of the international coalition that formed when extremists conquered large territories in both countries.

“We fought against France, we attacked France, we targeted the civilian population. There was nothing personal against them, ”Abdeslam said. “I know my statement may be shocking, but it is not to drive the knife deeper into the wound but to be sincere with those who suffer immeasurable grief. ”

The same network struck Brussels airport and metro in March 2016, killing 32 other people. Among those tried in Paris is Mohammed Abrini, who left the city the day before the 2015 attacks and participated in the Brussels attack. He recognized a role on Wednesday.

“I recognize my participation… (but) in this evil which happened in France, I am neither the commander nor the architect. I did not provide any logistical or financial assistance, ”Abrini said.

The specter of the architect of the attacks, the late Abdelhamid Abaaoud, weighed heavily in the first days of the trial.

The courtroom saw him in a video escaping on the subway. An investigator said he was on the phone with the attackers and with someone in Brussels throughout the attacks.

Counterterrorism investigators spotted Abaaoud in surveillance video entering the Paris metro with another of the gunmen. They recognized Abaaoud by his neon orange shoes – and that was a key moment in the affair.

“As soon as we see this video, that changes everything because we realize that there are still at least two terrorists still alive”, testified the investigator. His name has not been made public, as is often the case in French anti-terrorism trials.

Abaaoud and the remaining shooter died days later in a police shootout and suicide explosion.

The same investigator also testified to the devastation felt by those responsible as the attacks unfolded.

“The feeling we had that night at the Bataclan was that of failure. … I’m not sure we can afford to stop it all. But when we entered the Bataclan it was the feeling, ”he said.

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