Accidental interview shows: terrorist Abdeslam found police checks difficult

Belgian broadcaster RTBF recovered a 2015 sound clip from a conversation with terrorist Salah Abdeslam on the night of the Paris attacks. On the flight to Belgium, he and two accomplices say that they find all police checks on their way.

Abdeslam will be on trial this week for involvement in the attacks on 13 November at Bataclan concert hall and other entertainment venues in Paris. 130 people were killed in the process. In overheard conversations with fellow prisoners, Abdeslam later said that he had a bomb belt that night, but it had not gone off.

Because Abdeslam had rented a car that had been used in the attack, the police quickly caught track of him. Traffic checks were put in place around Paris and near the borders to prevent him from escaping. Yet two Belgian accomplices he called could cross the border with him.

Although Abdeslam had already mentioned in the recorded prison talks that he had been interviewed by a TV reporter on the Belgian-French border, that conversation could never be recovered. Now it turns out he was recorded for a radio report.

Of the conversation, only the short excerpt that was broadcast on the radio the next day has been preserved. โ€œThis is the third one. Third check. Frankly, we find it a little annoying,โ€ say the three occupants of the car trapped. โ€œBut we have now understood what it is.โ€

RTBF journalist Charlotte Legrand can remember the meeting, she tells the VRT. โ€œThere were three young men in the car who looked very tired. Their faces looked depreciated. Whoever sat in the back had a thick coat or a blanket around them.โ€

โ€œThey werent very sympathetic, but they answered my questions. As soon as their identity check was finished, they ended the conversation and closed their car window again.โ€


A prosecutor later explained that the officers who carried out the control had not yet received all the investigation information. They had asked Belgian colleagues for clarification, but all the hectic data was delivered only about two hours later.

Abdeslam would remain at large until March 18 of the following year. Four days before a series of attacks in Brussels, he was arrested after an exchange of shots with the police. He has now been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the violent resistance in his arrest.

The trial of the attacks in France kicks off on Wednesday. Next to Abdeslam, nineteen suspects are on trial. Abdeslam is also being prosecuted in the Belgian bomb case. There is no date of that yet.

A look back at the Paris attacks: