BRUSSELS: Salah Abdeslam, suspected of involvement in the Paris attacks last month, got past three police checks in France as he fled to Belgium, a source close to the investigation said on Sunday.
Confirming a report in the French daily Le Parisien, the source quoted Hamza Attou, suspected along with Mohammed Amri of driving Abdeslam to Brussels the day after the November 13 attacks in which 130 people died.
At the first checkpoint Attou and Amri admitted to police that they had just smoked marijuana, but were let go, the source said. All three are from the gritty Brussels suburb of Molenbeek.
Abdeslam sent a text message asking Attou and Amri to come for him, and they found him “agitated… Uneasy… unwell,” the source said. Then came a threat: “He told us to take him back to Brussels or he would blow up the car,” Attou said, according to the source.
To underscore the threat, Abdselam bragged about killing people with a Kalashnikov, adding that his brother Brahim blew himself up. Seven attackers blew themselves up or were killed by police in the course of the evening on November 13. Five of them have been identified. To avoid police checks, Abdeslam asked Attou and Amri to take minor roads, but they got lost and wound up on a motorway, Attou said.
At the first checkpoint they were asked if they had “consumed” any substances. Abdelslam was in the back seat and said nothing, while Amri and Attou replied “yes” because they had just smoked marijuana. “The policeman said that was not good, but it was not the priority today,” Attou said, according to the source. They were not asked for their papers, but they were at the second and third police checkpoints.
At the third stop, near Cambrai in the far north of France, Abdeslam even gave his address in Molenbeek. They stopped for petrol and Abdeslam went to the toilet, walking back with his jacket open, revealing that he was not carrying the explosives which Attou and Amri had been led to believe he had on him, the source told AFP.
Abdeslam said he left his brother’s ID card in a car – he did not say which car – “so that he would be known the world over like Coulibaly.” He was referring to Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman in Paris on January 8 as part of the series of attacks that began with the massacre at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.