Salah Abdeslam is playing down his role in the November Paris attacks
He says he only met the allegedly ringleader once
The only known surviving suspect from the Paris attacks claimed to have only played a minor role in the November bombings and shootings, two French media outlets said late Friday.
Speaking to Belgian authorities on March 19, following his arrest in Brussels, Salah Abdeslam tried to diminish his role in the attacks.
He often referred to his older brother, Brahim, as playing a more important part in the Paris terror operations, according to CNN affiliate, BFMTV, which gained access to the interrogation transcript. The French newspaper Le Monde also said it had access to the document.
Salah Abdeslam told investigators he rented cars and hotel rooms, prior to the Paris attacks, at his brother’s request.
When the brothers were staying at their hideout in the northeastern Paris suburb of Bobigny, Brahim gave Salah a suicide belt, BFMTV reported, citing the transcript.
Salah also said every time he had expenses associated with the preparation of the attacks, the money came from his brother. Brahim Abdeslam ended up blowing himself up at the Comptoir Voltaire cafe on the night of November 13.
Salah Abdeslam went on to say his brother told him another suspect, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was responsible for the attacks.
Abdeslam also claimed he saw the Paris attacks ringleader only “once in (his) life” in the Belgian city of Charleroi on the night of November 11, according to BFMTV.
However, the two men were convicted together in Belgium in 2010 on charges of attempted robbery, the country’s public broadcaster RTBF said.
As he went over the events leading to the Paris attacks, Abdeslam said he drove the three suicide bombers to the Stade de France that evening.
Abdeslam told investigators he only knew one of them, Bilal Hadfi. He claimed not to know “the two others … two Iraqis.”
Abdeslam then explained he “was going to get inside the Stade de France as a patron; however (he) didn’t have a ticket.”
He later gave up on the idea as he parked his vehicle, a Renault Clio, saying “I dropped off my three passengers, parked, then drove off randomly,” BFMTV reported.
After abandoning his car, he wandered in the subway and then “contacted one person, Mohammed Abrini.”
French authorities previously said Abdeslam remained under the radar for four hours, as chaos unfolded across Paris, before he called acquaintances Mohammed Amri and Hamza Attou to come get him and take him back to Belgium.
As he became the subject of a massive manhunt that lasted almost four months, Abdeslam said he went to “hide at Mohamed Belkaid’s (place) in Schaerbeek then in Forest” – both in the Brussels area.
When Belkaid saw Abdeslam, he said he “was unhappy to see him again.” That was November 14, the day after the Paris attacks, according to the interrogation transcript, BFMTV said.
Belkaid, who is also believed to have directed the Paris attackers via calls from Belgium, was killed last week during a Belgian police raid as authorities were still searching for Abdeslam.
Interviewed prior to Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels, Abdeslam told investigators he didn’t recognize Najim Laachraoui when he was shown a photo of the man who went on to become one of the two suicide bombers at the Brussels airport.
Belgian authorities said Abdeslam was planning new attacks when he was captured in last week’s raid.