The Washington Post

Suspect in 2015 attacks admits role for 1st time

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The key defendant in the 2015 Paris attacks trial said Wednesday that the coordinate­d assault was in retaliatio­n for French airstrikes on the Islamic State militant group, calling the deaths of 130 innocent people “nothing personal” as he acknowledg­ed his role for the first time.

Salah Abdeslam had been silent throughout the investigat­ion, and observers wondered whether he would offer any details at trial.

Nine Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers struck within minutes of one another at several Paris locations on Nov. 13, 2015, targeting fans at the national soccer stadium and cafegoers and ending with a bloodbath in the Bataclan concert hall. It was the deadliest violence to strike France since World War II.

Abdeslam is the only survivor of that cell. After his suicide vest malfunctio­ned on the night of the attacks, he fled to his hometown of Brussels. He was arrested months later.

Abdeslam said Wednesday that the killings were a response to French airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. France was part of the internatio­nal coalition that formed as the Islamic State conquered vast territory in Syria and Iraq.

“We fought France, we attacked France, we targeted the civilian population. It was nothing personal against them,” Abdeslam said. “I know my statement may be shocking, but it is not to dig the knife deeper in the wound but to be sincere toward those who are suffering immeasurab­le grief.”

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