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Paris Bomb Suspect Says Planned To Blow Self Up At Stadium

Paris shooting suspect Salah Abdeslam (left) and suspected accomplice Hamza Attou are seen at a filling station on a highway between Paris and Brussels, in Trith-Saint-Leger, France in this still image taken from a November 14, 2015, video.
Paris shooting suspect Salah Abdeslam (left) and suspected accomplice Hamza Attou are seen at a filling station on a highway between Paris and Brussels, in Trith-Saint-Leger, France in this still image taken from a November 14, 2015, video.
By RFE/RL

The prime surviving suspect for last year's Paris attacks has said he planned to blow himself up at a sports stadium but changed his mind.

Salah Abdeslam made the admission to Belgian investigators on March 19, a day after he was captured during a police raid in Brussels, ending a four-month manhunt.

"He wanted to blow himself up at the Stade de France and...backed out," said the lead French investigator, Francois Molins, quoting Abdeslam's statement to a magistrate in Brussels before he was transferred to a secure jail in Bruges.

The gun and bomb attacks on November 13 on the stadium, bars, and a concert hall killed 130 people and marked the deadliest militant assault in Europe since 2004.

Molins told reporters in Paris that people should treat with caution initial statements by the 26-year-old French national. 

Abdeslam's lawyer said he admitted being in Paris during the attacks but gave no details. 

He told reporters his client, born and raised by Moroccan immigrants in Brussels, had cooperated with investigators but would fight extradition to France.

Legal experts said his challenge was unlikely to succeed but would buy him weeks, possibly months, to prepare his defense.

French President Francois Hollande has said he wants Abdeslam transferred to France as quickly as possible to face prosecution for the deadly attacks.

On March 19, Hollande met with key cabinet ministers and security officials to discuss the next steps in the probe into the attacks.

Belgian prosecutors charged Abdeslam and a man arrested with him with "participation in terrorist murder."

Abdeslam's elder brother Brahim, with whom he used to run a bar, was among the suicide bombers. 

Salah's confession suggested he was the 10th man mentioned in an Islamic State claim of responsibility for the attacks, after which police found one suicide vest abandoned in garbage.

Abdeslam's family, who had urged him to give himself up, said through their lawyer that they had a "sense of relief."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

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